Michigan has been hit particularly hard amid a series of ongoing outbreaks of hepatitis A which have affected several other states including Utah, Arizona, Kentucky, and California. California has experienced over 672 cases, with at least 430 requiring hospitalization and 21 resulting in death.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that the outbreak in Michigan is unrelated to the one in California but that both outbreaks have been similar in terms of affected population. That is, primarily the homeless and those reporting drug use have been affected.
From August of 2016 to December 23 of this year, approximately 630 cases of hepatitis A were reported throughout the state of Michigan, concentrated in the southeastern portion of the state which includes the Detroit metropolitan area. More than 500 of these cases occurred in 2017 alone, giving Michigan the highest per capita rate of hepatitis A in the US. Of those 630 cases, 517 have required hospitalization and 20 have resulted in death.
The death rate of those affected is approximately 3.2 percent and the hospitalization rate is approximately 82 percent. These rates are far beyond what has occurred in past outbreaks of hepatitis A. Between 2011 and 2016 there were four deaths determined to be caused by hepatitis A in the state, three in 2013 and one in 2016.
In a presentation to county commissioners, Midland County Health Director Mike Krecek stated that infected individuals do not typically die from hepatitis A.
“People are dying from this and that is not normally the case with [hepatitis A],” Krecek said. “Usually that number is zero and we see a hospitalization rate of around 4 percent. This is a much stronger strain than we are accustomed to.”
Health officials have not yet been able to determine why the current strain of the virus is particularly virulent, nor have they been able to identify the source of the outbreak—either in Michigan or elsewhere nationwide.
“The incubation period of at least 15 days makes it very hard to trace things back,” Krecek noted. “If you suspect food, you have to think about what you ate 15 days ago, 16 days, 18 days. It’s very challenging.”
Those considered high risk for hepatitis A include the homeless or those in transient living, those with a substance abuse history, users of injectable or non-injectable drugs, those in close contact with someone who has the virus, individuals with multiple sex partners and men having sex with men. People who have died from the disease tend to be older with a median age of 58 years old…..more here