The risks of contracting hepatitis A are still high, and possibly getting higher.
That according to an announcement released today by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
Those with the highest risk factor: men having sexual contact with other men, or MSM. But they are not the only individuals at risk.
Women who have had sexual activity with men who have engaged in MSM relationships are also a part of the growing number of cases of hepatitis A being reported in Southeast Michigan.
One dose of hepatitis A vaccine is at least 90 percent effective at preventing infection, if given before any exposure to hepatitis A
As part of the ongoing investigation by local and state public health officials over the concerning increase in confirmed hepatitis A cases among MSM in the southeastern part of the state, residents are encouraged to be aware of the associated risk factors, and the importance of hand washing and vaccination to prevent hepatitis A infection.
All this comes on the heels of increasing outbreak over the past year and a half.
There have been 457 confirmed cases of hepatitis A reported since August 2016 in City of Detroit, Ingham, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Sanilac, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties.
From August 1, 2016 to October 1, 2017, there were 10 hepatitis A cases among MSM.
Since that time, there have been 11 additional MSM-related hepatitis cases reported in a period of only four weeks.
Of particular concern are the most recent cases, which have increased hospitalization rates (95.2 percent) among younger individuals aged 38 years and younger.
Substance abuse was reported by almost half of the cases, a risk factor associated with the larger outbreak, according to the MDHHS.
Hepatitis A – By the numbers
Reported Cases: 457
Age range: 20 – 87
Median age: 42
Gender: Male 63% / Female 37%
Drug Related: 27.5%
Transmission has primarily been person-to-person with no single source identified.
The hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for MSM by the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Despite this guidance, hepatitis A vaccination coverage among MSM in the United States remains low, leaving many adult men unprotected. There are currently multiple hepatitis A outbreaks among MSM in the United States and Western European countries.
MDHHS urges all men who have sex with men to get vaccinated against hepatitis A to protect themselves and their close contacts. Hepatitis A vaccine is available at local pharmacies, through healthcare providers, or at local health departments. One dose of hepatitis A vaccine is at least 90 percent effective at preventing infection, if given before any exposure to hepatitis A. The vaccine is inactivated and safe for all individuals including those with liver disease or weakened immune systems.
MDHHS and local public health officials are working to quickly investigate cases as they are identified, as well as notify the healthcare community and encourage providers to speak with their patients about hepatitis A, increase vaccinations, and test for hepatitis A when appropriate.
For local vaccine clinic information and availability, residents are encouraged to contact their local health department:
Detroit Health Department, 313-876-4000
Ingham County Health Department, 517-887-4316
Lapeer County Health Department, 810-667-0448
Livingston County Health Department, 517-546-9850
Macomb County Health Department, 586-469-5372
Monroe County Health Department, 734-240-7800
Oakland County Health Division, 800-848-5533 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sanilac County Health Department, 810-648-4098
Clair County Health Department, 810-987-5300
Washtenaw County Health Department, 734-554-6700
Wayne County Communicable Disease Unit, 734-727-7078
More information about hepatitis A, the ongoing outbreak in Michigan, and current recommendations are available at www.mi.gov/hepatitisAoutbreak and www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav.
Lead image by Nick Stenchenko/Shutterstock
See additional coverage from TheHUB regarding the spread of Hepatitis A: