Health officials are urging vaccination and hand washing after two cases of hepatitis A were confirmed in Washtenaw County

Health officials are urging vaccination and hand washing after two cases of hepatitis A were confirmed in Washtenaw County

Ann Arbor, Michigan – Health Department officials are reminding community members to get vaccinated against hepatitis A after two unrelated cases were confirmed in Washtenaw County this week.

Infected residents likely caught the virus while traveling internationally. Officials said common foods, drinks and drug use have been ruled out as sources of infection.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, jaundice, and stomach pain and can be similar to other illnesses. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The two-dose vaccine has been shown to help prevent infection and is recommended.

“We know that most adults in Washtenaw County have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A virus,” said Laura Bowman, epidemiology program manager for the Washtenaw County Health Department. “We want everyone to know that the spread of this serious disease can be prevented through vaccination and good hand washing.”

“The best way to prevent hepatitis A is vaccination,” she added. “This vaccine is highly effective and is now routinely recommended for children starting at 1 year of age. If you have not been vaccinated before, now is a good time to make an appointment for the vaccine and make sure you are protected.

The virus can cause liver damage among other problems, and can appear as a mild illness or a serious problem.

Most cases of hepatitis A occur through contact with an infected sexual partner or household members, such as family or roommates, officials said. Individuals can become infected after consuming contaminated foods or drinks, but the virus does not spread through sneezing or coughing.

Symptoms can begin between two to six weeks after exposure. Those infected can transmit the disease to others for up to two weeks before symptoms appear. Officials said children under the age of six likely will not experience symptoms.

Anyone with symptoms of hepatitis A should avoid others, especially in situations where the virus can spread easily, and contact medical professionals for care.

The virus is spread through contact with the feces of infected people. Health officials said washing hands with soap and warm water, in addition to vaccination, can also help prevent the spread of infection.

Hand sanitizer is ineffective against hepatitis A virus.

Vaccination is recommended for community members most at risk of infection including:

  • Those who travel abroad

  • Those who use drugs or have a history of doing so

  • Those in jail or prison

  • Food industry workers

  • Health care workers

  • Those experiencing homelessness

  • Men who have sex with men

  • People with liver disease

Officials said wastewater monitoring during the last week of January showed an increase in the detection of hepatitis A virus in… Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant. This may indicate that the virus has been cleared by those already infected or that no additional cases of the virus have been reported or detected.

Eight cases of hepatitis A have been reported in the population since 2020.

Vaccines can be administered by health care providers and pharmacies. The Washtenaw County Health Department is offering the vaccine to community members who have Medicaid, those without health insurance or those who can’t find it anywhere else.

Appointments can be made by calling 734-544-6700.

Learn more about hepatitis A virus at Washtenaw County Health Department website.

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(tags for translation) Ann Arbor

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