Hepatitis A Outbreak Update
As of last week, there have been 918 cases of Hepatitis A in Michigan since an outbreak started Aug. 1, 2016. According to the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), out of the 918 cases, 737 people have been hospitalized and 28 have died. The city of Detroit and the counties of Macomb, Wayne and Oakland have seen the highest number of confirmed outbreak cases, but haven’t had one in the past 100 days.
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a severe liver infection that causes inflammation. It is very contagious and can be transferred through food containing a virus or a drink that contains small amounts of fecal matter from an infected person.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Intense itching
Who is at risk of obtaining hepatitis A?
The current hepatitis A outbreak is much different than the usual outbreaks that have been seen in the past. Hepatitis A is usually transmitted through contaminated food, but this version is being transferred from person-to-person. It is being passed on through a fecal-oral route.
People who are incarcerated, inject illegal drugs or are homeless have an increased risk of obtaining hepatitis A. Having sex with someone, or even living with someone that is infected can put you at a greater risk of acquiring the infection.
How can you protect yourself from hepatitis A?
The public can take a few actions to help protect themselves from obtaining hepatitis A.
- Good Hygiene – Make sure to wash your hands after using the bathroom, before and after changing a diaper and before preparing and eating food.
- Avoid Contact – Do not share food, drugs or drinks with others. Do not have sex with someone who is infected because you will put yourself at a greater risk of obtaining it. Also, do not share used towels, toothbrushes or silverware.
- Vaccination – The vaccination is given in two shots, six months apart. According to the MDHHS, this vaccination is both effective and safe.
Who should receive the hepatitis A vaccination?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is recommended the following people get the hepatitis A vaccination.
- Children at the age of one
- People who plan on traveling to countries where this virus is common
- People who have adopted children from countries where hepatitis A is common
- Men who have sexual interactions with other men
- People who use drugs, including injections
- People who are experiencing homelessness
- People with a chronic long-term liver disease
- People with hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- People who experience blood clotting and other related disorders
- People who are in direct contact with people who have hepatitis A
- Anyone who wants to protect themselves from this virus
Are you safe from hepatitis A?
It doesn’t hurt to play it safe and be cautious when it comes to hepatitis A. As previously mentioned, make sure you have good hygiene, wash your hands, especially after you use the restroom, and stay out of direct contact with those who are infected. Review the list of symptoms to check if you have any of them. Make a trip to the doctor if you think you have some of the symptoms, or are worried that you may have been exposed to hepatitis A. The doctor will do blood tests to confirm or deny if you have hepatitis A.
“I would stress the importance of vaccination and proper hand hygiene to prevent outbreaks from re-occurring,” states Alexandra Lin, a manager in pharmacy services at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Washing your hands with warm water and soap is essential to staying healthy and preventing hepatitis A from spreading. The number of hepatitis A cases are not increasing quickly, but this doesn’t mean we are in the clear yet. The state health agencies still want health providers and the public to be careful and play it safe.
If you enjoyed this post, check these out:
- Dine Out A Lot? Consider Getting a Hepatitis A Vaccine
- What Every Parent Needs to Know About Vaccines
- How Do Vaccines Actually Work? A Pharmacist Explains
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