State and local health officials continue to investigate an outbreak of hepatitis A cases in the city of Detroit, and Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and St. Clair counties.
From August 1, 2016 to June 26, 2017, there have been nearly 190 cases of confirmed hepatitis A including ten deaths reported to public health authorities in these jurisdictions. This represents a ten-fold increase during the same time last year.
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 ongoing hepatitis A outbreak presents a significant public health threat to vulnerable community members within Southeast Michigan. Nearly half of the cases (47 percent) have a history of substance abuse, 20 percent are co-infected with hepatitis C, and six more recent cases have been incarcerated.
“Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “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.”
To end the outbreak in SE Michigan, the vaccination is being recommended 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