Due to the large number of Hepatitis A cases in southeast Michigan, a hotline has been established by the Genesee County Health Department. The health department issued a statement confirming eight cases since 2017 began, and seven were after October 1st. Starting on August 1st of 2016, over 580 cases have been reported in seventeen counties, with one case occurring in the Jackson Department of Corrections. Five cases have been reported in Genesee County, and there have currently been twenty deaths.
According to Danielle Steplowski, one of the Genesee County Health Department’s epidemiologists, they have not yet found any common source linking the cases in Genesee County. She also stated they had found cases that spread from individual to individual. She said the county generally sees between zero and six cases of Hepatitis A per year, and calls the current figures unusual.
The Hepatitis A virus causes Hepatitis A. This disease infects the liver, and is usually spread from individual to individual. The disease is most commonly passed from fecal to oral routes. This occurs when a person ingests water or food that is contaminated with an infected individual’s feces, from living with an individual who has become infected, or from having sex with an infected individual. The symptoms include abdominal pain, dark urine, yellowing of the eyes or skin, diarrhea, headache, nausea, fever, and a loss of appetite. The typical time for these symptoms to appear is one month after the individual has been exposed. For more details, go to MLive.com.
The individuals at the highest risk are sharing illegal drugs with, having sex with, or living with an individual with Hepatitis A. There have been 482 individuals hospitalized out of the 583 reported cases. There is an incubation period of fifteen to fifty days, so the disease is hard to track. According to the health department, if the vaccine is administered two weeks prior to exposure, it is 95 percent effective.
The preventative measures include thoroughly washing the hands prior to changing diapers, using the restroom, eating or preparing meals, using personal toothbrushes, utensils and towels, not sharing cigarettes, drinks or food, and abstaining from sex with an infected individual.
Any resident who believes they may have been exposed to Hepatitis A is being encouraged to contact the immunization center for the county or their personal physician. In November, an emergency center was created by the state to track and coordinate the disease.