3 cases of hepatitis A found in Calhoun County

CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. -- An outbreak of Hepatitis A has hit parts of West Michigan, and health officials say this is the worst strain they've seen in a while.

So far, three cases have been confirmed in Calhoun County, and there is fear that it could get much worse.

The MDHHS says that the cases are linked to an outbreak in southeast Michigan.  Two of the confirmed cases are people from the southeast side of the state who were diagnosed in West Michigan.  The other is a Calhoun County resident.

Health department officials say this strain has a much higher hospitalization rate than those in the past, and has even led to fatalities in Michigan.

"The problem that we're seeing with this strain is we're running about an 84 percent hospitalization rate and that's really concerning to us," said Michelle Thorne with the Calhoun County Health Department.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection with no treatment, just treatment for the symptoms, which can include a yellowing of the skin, severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting diarrhea and loss of appetite.

“Hepatitis A is typically a viral one that comes about from the contamination from fecal to oral, somebody goes to the bathroom, they have a bowel movement, they don’t wash their hands with soap and water, they then go touch something that then you touch and you put in your mouth and that’s how you get exposed to Hepatitis A,” said Thorne.

While some people with Hepatitis A might not show any symptoms, others may end up in the hospital. Thorne says 19 people in Michigan alone have died from Hepatitis A since August.

“This is one thing that we can do is to get the education out, encourage people to get vaccinated, and definitely wash your hands," Thorne said.

Anyone who believes they have been exposed to hepatitis A or who have symptoms noted above should contact their health care provider immediately. Anyone who wants to be vaccinated should contact their health care provider or the Calhoun County Public Health Department. For up-to-date vaccination information or for health department office hours, visit www.calhouncountymi.gov/publichealth.

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