Oakland County Health Division reports eight new cases of Hepatitis A in the last week associated primarily with the Farmington Hills area. The Health Division has not yet identified a source, but is investigating potential common factors such as contaminated food, sick individuals, travel, and healthcare exposure.
“These new cases serve as a vital reminder of why it is critical to get vaccinated,” said Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County. “The Health Division urges all residents, food handlers, and healthcare providers to get the Hepatitis A vaccine and to wash hands thoroughly. Ill food workers and health care workers are encouraged to stay home from work, seek medical attention, and report their illness to their employer.”
Dr. Pamela Hackert, medical director for Oakland County Health Division said, “The virus is shed in feces and is most commonly spread from person to person by contaminated hands. In addition to vaccination, good hygiene, proper sanitation of surfaces, and proper food preparation are keys in preventing this contagious disease.”
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by a virus and is a vaccine-preventable disease. Symptoms of Hepatitis A include sudden abdominal pain, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, headache, dark urine, and vomiting followed by yellowing of the skin and eyes. Symptoms may appear from two to six weeks after exposure, with the average time being about one month. In rare cases, those with a pre-existing severe illness or a compromised immune system can progress to liver failure. Individuals are advised to contact their doctor if they have a sudden onset of any symptoms.
To reduce the risk of contracting Hepatitis A:
- Wash hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing and eating food. Rub hands vigorously with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is essential and one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection.
- Clean and disinfect all surface areas if someone in the household or workplace has symptoms, especially areas such as toilets, sinks, trashcans, doorknobs and faucet handles.
- Do not prepare food if you have symptoms and refrain from food preparation for at least three days
- after symptoms have ended, or two weeks after onset of clinical symptoms, whichever is longer.
- Get the Hepatitis A vaccine.
The Hepatitis A vaccine is available through some health providers, CVS Minute Clinics, Oakland County Health Division offices in Southfield and Pontiac, and many pharmacies. Call ahead to ensure your health care provider or pharmacy has the vaccine available.
Health Division offices are located at the following addresses:
- North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34 East, Pontiac
- South Oakland Health Center, 27725 Greenfield Road, Southfield
Payment options include cash and credit card. There is a $5 fee per visit, per client as well as additional fees for credit card payments. Vaccine fees are charged to individuals who are not eligible for federal and/or state programs that cover vaccination costs. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program offers vaccines at no cost for eligible children up to 18-years-old. If you have insurance, check with your health care/insurance provider for possible benefit coverage. No one will be denied access to services due to inability to pay. A discounted/sliding fee schedule is available.
For more information about Hepatitis A, visit www.oakgov.com/health or call Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
From August 1, 2016 to March 21, 2017, 107 cases of lab-confirmed hepatitis A have been reported to public health authorities in these jurisdictions. This represents an eightfold increase during the same time last year. Ages of the cases range from 22 to 86 years, with an average age of 45 years. The majority of the cases have been male. Eighty-five percent of the cases have been hospitalized with two deaths reported. Approximately one-third of the cases have a history of substance abuse, and 16 percent of all cases are co-infected with hepatitis C. No common sources of infection have been identified.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease. While the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, most adults have not been vaccinated and may be susceptible to the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for:
- All children at age 1 year
- Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients
- Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs
- Men who have sex with men
- People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Persons with chronic liver disease have an elevated risk of death from liver failure
- People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates
- Travelers to countries that have high rates of hepatitis A
- Family members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common
Individuals with hepatitis A are infectious for 2 weeks prior to symptom onset. Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light-colored stools. Symptoms usually appear over a number of days and last less than 2 months; however, some people can be ill for as long as 6 months. Hepatitis A can sometimes cause liver failure and death.
Risk factors for a hepatitis A infection include living with someone who has hepatitis A, having sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A, or sharing injection or non-injection illegal drugs with someone who has hepatitis A. The hepatitis A virus can also be transmitted through contaminated food or water.