Hepatitis A cases confirmed in northern Michigan

Five cases of Hepatitis A have been confirmed in northern Michigan.

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY (WPBN/WGTU) -- The Grand Traverse County Health Department has confirmed five cases of Hepatitis A in northern Michigan.

Four of the cases were reported in Grand Traverse County and one in Leelanau County.

The cases were linked this week to a larger outbreak in Southeast Michigan.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can be serious, sometimes resulting in a liver transplant, and death.

Of the 677 cases reported in Michigan since Aug. 1, 2016, the health department said 82 percent of those cases were serious enough to need hospitalization.

"This outbreak is growing," said Wendy Hirschenberger, Health Officer for the Grand Traverse County Health Department. "It's still focused primarily in southeast Michigan but as we know people travel, so we want to get the word out to people with the highest risk."

Health leaders say this strain of Hepatitis A appears to be more severe, and has doctors concerned because it's impacting a different population of people than they've seen with previous outbreaks.

"Usually Hepatitis A is a food borne illness," said Salah Qutaishat, Ph.D, of Munson Medical Center Infection Prevention. "We talk about fecal oral transmission. This is completely different."

Individuals that are at a higher risk for getting the Hepatitis A virus include the following: the homeless or those living with transient housing, persons who are incarcerated, illicit drug users (both injection and non-injection drugs), persons who have sexual activities with someone infected with Hepatitis A virus, men who have sexual relations with men, and persons who have close contact, care for, or live with someone who has the Hepatitis A virus, according to the health department.

A Hepatitis A vaccine is available and is suggested during childhood vaccinations.

Symptoms include: Nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes, feeling tired/fatigue, dark urine, fever, pale-colored feces and joint pain.

Hepatitis A can be spread by contaminated food and water, sex or close contact with someone who's infected.

The health department said many adults haven't been vaccinated against it. Anyone who wants to be vaccinated should contact their healthcare provider or their local health department:

Benzie-Leelanau Health Department: 231-256-0200

Grand Traverse County Health Department: 231-995-6131

Health Department of Northwest Michigan: 800-432-4121

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