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Health department vaccinates staff, clients at local shelters for hepatitis A

LANSING, Mich. – The Ingham County Health Department vaccinated staff and clientele at two local homeless shelters this week for hepatitis A following possible exposure and an increase in hepatitis A cases in the county.

Three Ingham County residents have been diagnosed with hepatitis A since August, and one of them has died. Although Southeast Michigan has been combating a large hepatitis A outbreak since 2016, the two outbreaks have not been directly linked at this time.

“In two months, we’ve seen the number of cases we typically expect to see over the course of a year,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “We are working diligently to stop the outbreak, especially in light of what has happened in Southeast Michigan. We don’t want to see an outbreak on that scale here in Ingham County.”

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, contagious liver disease. It is often spread through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with infected feces or oral contact with contaminated objects. Transmission can occur easily among household contacts and sexual partners. Risk factors in the Ingham County outbreak include: homelessness or use of transient housing, illicit drug use, incarceration, men who have sex with men, and sex workers and their clients.

The health department provided hepatitis A vaccine at no cost to people connected to the two shelters and is recommending the vaccine to people in high risk occupations. This includes hospital workers employed in the emergency room, the environmental health or sanitation department, and the food service department.

Illness generally occurs two to six weeks after exposure to the hepatitis A virus and includes fatigue, abdominal pain, yellow skin (jaundice), dark urine and pale stool. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. Some people have no symptoms. Vaccination and thorough hand washing can prevent infection.

People who believe they have been exposed to hepatitis A or who have symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately. Anyone who wants to be vaccinated should contact their health care provider or the Ingham County Immunization Clinic at (517) 887-4316.

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