2018-02-11 / Front Page

Health dept. fights to keep hepatitis A out of Lapeer County

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Kathy Haskins, director of the Lapeer County Health Dept., addresses the county board during its meeting Thursday. Department staff is working hard to keep an outbreak of Hepatitis A from spreading further into Lapeer County, she said. 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich Kathy Haskins, director of the Lapeer County Health Dept., addresses the county board during its meeting Thursday. Department staff is working hard to keep an outbreak of Hepatitis A from spreading further into Lapeer County, she said. Photo by Andrew Dietderich LAPEER — The Lapeer County Health Dept. has administered 265 hepatitis A vaccines since Oct. 1 — including 100 so far in 2018 — as officials continue working to keep the disease from spreading here as it has in neighboring jurisdictions like Macomb County.

On Thursday, the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners committee of the whole recommended the full board accept a $98,500 grant from Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services, a portion of monies allocated by the state to counties affected by the outbreak.

The Lapeer County Health Dept. also has expanded clinic hours to allow for more people to receive the vaccine, dedicated a nurse to dealing with hepatitis A vaccines and outreach specifically, and is trying to reach as many of those as possible who are identified as being “high- risk” and/or often dealing with the public, such as food industry workers.

Lapeer County now has six confirmed cases, said Kathy Haskins, director, Lapeer County Health Dept. Two of the cases originated at the Lapeer County Jail, she said. With six cases, Lapeer County is considered by the state to be part of the outbreak.

In Macomb County, there have been 207 hepatitis A cases confirmed. In Oakland County, there have been 100 as well as 30 in St. Clair, 10 in Genesee, and six in Sanilac.

“It has been spreading,” Haskins said. “We have quite a commuter population that work and play in Macomb and Oakland counties.”

According to the department, “Hepatitis A is a serious and highly contagious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found is the feces of people who have (the) Hepatitis A disease. You can get Hepatitis A by eating food or water that is contaminated with the virus, during sex, or just by living with an infected person. The illness occurs 15-50 days after exposure, and the individual can be sick for several weeks. In some cases the infected person may die. However, not all people infected with the virus experience symptoms or illness.”

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection may include:

• Nausea and vomiting

• Belly pain

• Feeling tired

• Fever

• Loss of appetite

• Yellowing of the skin and eyes

• Dark urine

• Pale-colored feces

• Joint pain

Making things especially challenging, according to MDHHS, is that “No common sources of food, beverages, or drugs have been identified as a potential source of infection. Transmission appears to be through direct person to-person spread and illicit drug use.”

The Lapeer County Health Dept. says people can reduce their risk of contracting Hepatitis A through good hand washing, and whenever possible, using their own towels, toothbrushes, and eating utensils.

Further, the department says the Hepatitis A vaccine is very effective at preventing infection.

“(Hepatitis A) vaccine is part of the recommended vaccine schedule for children, but most adults have not been vaccinated and may be susceptible to the hepatitis A virus,” Haskins said.

In 2017, the Lapeer County Health Dept. administered a total of 231 hepatitis A vaccines, including 165 during the Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 period.

By comparison, a total of 71 were administered in all of 2016 and 51 were given in 2015.

MDHHS recommends the following “high-risk” individuals get vaccinated:

• Persons who are homeless

• Persons who are incarcerated

• Persons who use injection and non-injection illegal drugs

• Persons who work with the high-risk populations listed above

• Persons who have close contact, care for, or live with someone who has HAV

• Persons who have sexual activities with someone who has HAV

• Men who have sex with men

• Travelers to countries with high or medium rates of HAV

• Persons with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C

• Persons with clotting factor disorders

Haskins said that already, the health department has held five clinics for Lapeer County Jail inmates with plans to continue offering the vaccine to inmates on a weekly basis.

Further, it has held special clinics in Almont and Imlay City.

Another one was held for a Lapeer area restaurant that pro-actively requested it specifically, Haskins said. (She did not want to provide details on which restaurant.)

Haskins said her department is working through various county organizations and groups to reach as many “highrisk” people as possible.

For those interested in getting a vaccine on their own, the Lapeer County Health Dept. is extending clinic hours to accommodate anyone seeking the hepatitis A vaccine.

The clinic is located at the Lapeer County Health Dept. in the John T. Rich Building at 1800 Imlay City Rd. in Lapeer Township.

In addition to the normal clinic times, Wednesday appointments are available between 4 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 810-667- 0448.

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