Hepatitis A outbreak in SE Michigan claims 10 lives since August 2016

Hepatitis A vaccine
Hepatitis A vaccine

DETROIT – Hepatitis A cases in southeastern Michigan are continuing to climb, with nearly 190 confirmed since last August, including 10 deaths.

Michigan's chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, says hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine but most adults don't get it. The state says there have been nearly 190 cases through June 26. Hepatitis A can spread through sharing drugs, sexual activity and close contact.

"Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease," said Wells. "And while the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, most adults have not been vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus and may be susceptible to the illness."

From the health department: 

Ages of the cases range from 21 to 86 years, with an average age of 44 years. Two-thirds of the cases (66 percent) are men, and nearly nine out of ten (87 percent) have been hospitalized. While no common source of the outbreak such as contaminated food or water has been identified, transmission does appear to be person-to-person through illicit drug use, sexual activity, and close contact among household members.

The health department recommends the vaccination for the following at–risk individuals:

  • People who use injection and non-injection illegal drugs
  • People who participate in commercial exchange of sexual practices
  • Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People with liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Persons with chronic liver disease have an elevated risk of death from liver failure
  • Any person who wishes to be immune to hepatitis A
  • People who live, work, or recreate in SE Michigan and are concerned about getting hepatitis A

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