DETROIT – The largest hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan history continues to bring the disease into the headlines.
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and can be caused by a variety of sources, from toxins to immune problems. The five viruses, designated by the letters A through E are the most common causes. Hepatitis A is especially contagious.
Laura Bauman is the director of epidemiology for Washtenaw County, she points out that, “this is not an outbreak in kids.”
A vaccine has been available since 1995 and has been part of the childhood vaccine schedule since 1996.
Young adults and children who were vaccinated are extremely well protected. The hepatitis A vaccine is so effective that if an unvaccinated adult is exposed and receives the vaccine within two weeks they will be protected from infection.
Hepatitis A can be spread through blood exposure like hepatitis B, but that’s not the most common route of transmission.
“The bottom line is this is spread through poop,” Bauman said.
Hepatitis A is spread easily in areas with poor hygiene. The best defense, besides vaccination, is hand washing with soap and water.
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin from jaundice.
- Dark urine.
- Abdominal pain.
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin from jaundice, dark urine, and abdominal pain.