Deadly hepatitis A outbreak surfaces in Ingham County

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – A large hepatitis A outbreak that began in southeastern Michigan is spreading and now the disease has surfaced in Ingham County.

Since August 1, 2016, there have been 457 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in the City of Detroit, Ingham, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Sanilac, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties reported to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

There have been 18 deaths associated with the outbreak in that time.

The most recent Ingham County outbreak is not directly linked to the 2016 outbreak.

Since August three Ingham County residents have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A and one of them has died.

That has led to the Ingham County Health Department vaccinating staff and clientele at two local homeless shelters this week.

“In two months, we’ve seen the number of cases we typically expect to see over the course of a year,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “We are working diligently to stop the outbreak, especially in light of what has happened in Southeast Michigan. We don’t want to see an outbreak on that scale here in Ingham County.”

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, contagious liver disease.

It is often spread through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with infected feces or oral contact with contaminated objects.

People who are at the highest risk include hospital workers in an emergency room, the environmental health or sanitation department, and the food service industry.

After someone has been exposed to hepatitis the illness generally occurs two to six weeks later and includes fatigue, abdominal pain, yellow skin (jaundice), dark urine and pale stool.

Effects of the disease can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months.

In some cases people have no symptoms.

Vaccination and thorough hand washing can prevent infection.

If you think you might have been exposed to hepatitis A you should seek medical care immediately.

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