Hepatitis A outbreak in southeast Michigan

Vaccination and practicing good personal hygiene can limit the spread of hepatitis A.

January 11, 2018 - Author: Jane Hart, Michigan State University Extension

Have you noticed articles in the newspapers lately about Hepatitis A in Michigan? The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has been publishing information about an outbreak in southeast parts of Michigan. So far, there have been 658 confirmed cases from this outbreak and 22 deaths.

Hepatitis A is a virus and is mainly found in the feces of those infected. It can be spread to food when an infected person touches food or equipment with unwashed hands. Just a small amount of hepatitis A can make a person sick, and an infected person may not know they have the virus for several weeks and can still be infectious.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Mild fever
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • General weakness
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin or eyes

The main symptom of hepatitis A, jaundice, doesn’t appear right away, so the infected person may not know they have the virus. If that person is working in food service, people who had contact with things that person touched the previous couple weeks may be infected. The virus cannot be killed by proper cooking.

There is a vaccine available for hepatitis A which can prevent you from being infected. Most children, as part of their immunization schedule, are already vaccinated against this virus – it’s adults who don’t have immunity. To keep yourself safe, make sure to wash your hands after using the bathroom and before preparing meals. If you know someone with the virus, don’t share eating utensils, toothbrushes or anything that may transfer bodily fluids. You should not have sex with, or share needles, drinks or food with an infected person. And if you’ve been exposed, see your clinic or doctor.

The spread of hepatitis A can be reduced by practicing good personal hygiene. For more information and resources on the outbreak visit MDHHS. For more information about food safety programs and resources visit Michigan State University Extension or contact your local MSU Extension office.

Tags: food & health, msu extension, safe food & water

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