Cases of hepatitis A are on the rise in Michigan

With the recent rise in confirmed cases in Southeast Michigan, hepatitis A awareness and prevention are key to protecting yourself and others.

If you read or listen to the local news, you’ve probably witnessed reports about the recent surge of hepatitis A cases that has resulted in 19 confirmed deaths in Southeast Michigan. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is currently evaluating this outbreak that began in August 2016 and has affected 486 people living in the city of Detroit, as well as Huron, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Sanilac, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

What is hepatitis A? According to the Mayo Clinic, hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that can cause inflammation and affect your liver’s ability to function. A person is most likely to get hepatitis A from contaminated food, water or from close contact with another person or object that has been infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following signs and symptoms associated with this disease:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice

The CDC also reports that the symptoms of hepatitis A (HAV) usually last less than two months, the average incubation period is 28 days and that the virus can live outside the body for months, depending on the environmental conditions.

MDHHS wants the public to know that there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of HAV transmission. The hepatitis A vaccine is a recommended childhood vaccine, however, most adults have not been vaccinated and therefore are more susceptible to the virus. Besides getting vaccinated, MDHHS recommends the following to protect you and your loved ones from contracting HAV:

  • Wash your hands after using the restroom and before eating or preparing meals for yourself or others
  • Use your own towels, toothbrushes and eating utensils.
  • Do not have sex with someone who has the HAV infection.
  • Do not share food, drinks, drugs or smokes with other people
  • If you think you may have hepatitis A, see your medical provider immediately and cooperate with your local public health organization to help protect others. 

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