Southeast Michigan leading state in record-breaking Hepatitis A outbreak

DETROIT - Southeast Michigan is dealing with an unusually large outbreak of Hepatitis A, with the Health Department reporting 10 times the number it usually sees.

As of Dec. 7 there have been 783 cases reported in Michigan, and 20 deaths linked to the outbreak. Those figures are from Aug. 1, 2016 to just last week.

  • Macomb County: 177
  • City of Detroit: 142
  • Wayne: 104
  • Oakland:86

For a full list of updated outbreak figures, visit Michigan.Gov.

An analysis by the Detroit Free Press found that Michigan has led the U.S. in hepatitis cases per capita this year, with more than 500 reported cases so far. California was the only state with more cases reported this year, with more than 660.

Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infections disease research at Beaumont Health, says previous outbreaks have been linked to poor hygiene at restaurants, but this time it’s different.

“This is not the classic outbreak where somebody gets sick in a restaurant and then it spreads from that person to the people they ate with and their family,” he said.

Sims said this round is linked to heroin abuse among the homeless and incarcerated population, hitting the metro Detroit area particularly hard.

“Because they are sharing needles -- It is blood exposure,” added Sims.

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The state Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging high-risk individuals to get vaccinations, but increased demand in recent months has created a vaccine shortage. Hepatitis A can be prevented if a vaccine is given within two weeks of exposure.

For a list of vaccination clinics, click here.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hepatitis A is an extremely contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. The disease causes symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever and jaundice. It can be spread during sex or by eating contaminated food or water. Symptoms can appear about 14-50 days after exposure. 

The latest Hepatitis A cases were reported at two local restaurants, one in Detroit and one in Southfield.

The Oakland County Health Division says an employee of Papa Romano's located at 2392 W. Nine Mile and Telegraph has a confirmed case of Hepatitis A. Staff and guests who ate food at the restaurant between Nov. 22 and Nov. 26 are being urged to get a vaccine or contact their doctor if they notice symptoms. 

There has also been a report of a hepatitis A case in connection with Paul's Pizza in Detroit at 7635 W. Vernor. Anyone who ate food there from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25 is urged to get a vaccine. 

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