Officials warn about Detroit-area hepatitis A cases

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News
  • The state reports 107 laboratory-confirmed cases in Detroit and Wayne, Oakland since August.
  • The disease is spread easily by an infected person, but can be prevented if people get vaccinated.

An increase in hepatitis A cases in Metro Detroit spurred state health officials Friday to urge residents to get vaccinated.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said there have been 107 laboratory-confirmed cases of the preventable liver disease in Detroit and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties since August — more than eight-times the number reported during the same time period last year. Two of those people died.

The disease can be spread through contact with objects, food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person, but can be prevented if people get vaccinated.

DHHS and local health departments “are increasing outreach to vulnerable populations to raise awareness and promote vaccination of hepatitis A,” Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said in a press release.

“Those who live, work, or play in the city of Detroit, as well as Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties are urged to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and talk to their health care provider about their risks,” Wells added.

Symptoms include jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light-colored stools. Hepatitis A is infectious for two week before symptoms appear. Symptoms usually emerge over a number of days, and can last from less than two months to as long as six months. The infection can sometimes cause liver failure and death.

The Metro Detroit cases included people ages 22 through 86, with an average age of 45, according to health officials. About a third had a history of substance abuse, and 16 percent also were infected with hepatitis C. No common source of the infections has been identified.

The hepatitis A vaccine is now part of the recommended vaccination schedule for children, but many adults have never been vaccinated, health officials said Friday. The vaccine is recommended for children at age 1, and for anyone in close personal contact with someone infected with hepatitis A.

Vaccinations also are recommended for users of illegal drugs, whether injectable or non-injectable; men who have sex with men; people with chronic liver disease including hepatitis B or hepatitis C; people treated with clotting-factor concentrates; and travelers to countries with high rates of hepatitis A, as well as family members of recent adoptees from such countries.

Health officials urge adults to check their vaccination status, and talk to their health care provider about their potential risk for hepatitis A infection.

For information on hepatitis A vaccinations

Macomb County Health Department, (586) 469-5372

Oakland County Health Department, (800) 848-5533, or email

Wayne County Communicable Disease Unit, (734) 727-7078

Detroit Health Department, (313) 876-4000

Source: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services