Emergency center activated in response to Michigan hepatitis A outbreak

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LANSING, Mich. (13abc Action News) - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service is activating an emergency response plan in response to a hepatitis A outbreak.

That outbreak has claimed 18 lives in the past year in the southeast part of the state, health officials say. Monroe County is in the affected area.

Since August of last year, there have been 457 confirmed cases of hepatitis A associated with the outbreak in the City of Detroit, Huron, Ingham, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Sanilac, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties.

MDHHS issued a statewide message Tuesday to encourage healthcare providers across Michigan to be on alert for hepatitis A infection in high risk individuals and to order testing when suspected as soon as possible.

The earlier the report of a case is received, the better chance public health officials have at determining exposure and administering appropriate interventions, leaders say.

An official statement from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reads in part:

"To help coordinate Michigan’s response to the hepatitis A outbreak, we are opening the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center to assist the multiple local public health jurisdictions involved in the response and prevention of further cases," said MDHHS Director Nick Lyon.

The CHECC has been activated to provide support to impacted jurisdictions including local health departments, hospitals, EMS, healthcare coalitions and other healthcare providers. This coordination and communication support includes responding to requests for health related resources, developing and distributing guidelines and educational materials to meet the needs of this outbreak.

As there are indications that the outbreak could spread outside of the Southeast region of Michigan, MDHHS is urging all healthcare providers to promote hepatitis A vaccination to the highest risk individuals, including:

Persons with a history of substance use­­
Persons currently homeless or in transient living
Men who have sex with men (MSM)
Persons incarcerated in correctional facilities
Food handlers
Healthcare workers
Persons with underlying liver disease
Persons who are in close contact with any of the above risk groups
Persons wishing to be immune to hepatitis A

"We know that the hepatitis A vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in protecting someone who may be exposed to hepatitis A," said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive with the MDHHS. "Without a single source associated with these cases, the importance of vaccination and proper hygiene is vital to ensuring we stop the person-to-person spread of hepatitis A."

Primary cases range in age from 20 to 87 years with median age of 42 years. Sixty-three percent are male and 85.6 percent have been hospitalized. Forty-eight percent of cases reported illicit drug use, 27 percent of cases were co-infected with hepatitis C, and three percent co-infected with hepatitis B.

Due to the temporary limitations on the availability of Adult Hepatitis A vaccine, MDHHS recommends that healthcare providers postpone administration of the second dose of Adult hepatitis A vaccine unless individuals require the second dose to address high risk conditions, including travel to a hepatitis A endemic country.

MDHHS and local public health officials are working to quickly investigate cases as they are identified, as well as notify the healthcare community.