Health Officials Investigate Hepatitis A Virus Outbreak

Reports confirm 10 hepatitis A-related deaths in Detroit area over the past year.

Confirmed cases of hepatitis A virus between August 1, 2016, and June 26, 2017, in the Detroit area increased 10-fold compared with the prior year.

The outbreak occurred in the city of Detroit, as well as Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and St Clair counties. Sixty-six percent of cases have been found in men, with nearly 9 of 10 requiring hospitalization, according to Outbreak News Today. The confirmed cases also included 10 reported deaths.

Illicit drug use, sexual activity, and close contact among household members appears to be the primary driver of transmission, according to Outbreak News Today. In southeast Michigan, nearly half of the cases have a history of substance abuse.

Furthermore, 20% of individuals have been found to be co-infected with hepatitis C virus, and 6 more recent cases have been incarcerated.

“Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Dr Eden Wells, chief medical officer 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.”

Michigan state and local health officials recommend high-risk individuals be vaccinated for hepatitis A.

High-risk individuals include those who use injection and non-injection illegal drugs; who participate in commercial exchange of sexual practices; have close personal contacts with hepatitis A patients, men who have sex with men, those with liver diseases, any individual who wishes to be immune to hepatitis A virus, and anyone who lives, works, or recreates in southeast Michigan and are concerned about contracting hepatitis A.