An alarming number of hepatitis A cases have swept across southeast Michigan since August 2016 in what public health officials said is one of the largest outbreaks to occur in the United States since a vaccine was widely introduced two decades ago.
In 2017 alone, Michigan has led the nation in hepatitis cases per capita, according to a Free Press analysis. More than 500 cases have been reported this year.
The far-reaching outbreak — which has heavily impacted Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties — has created a coalition of sorts among local and state officials who are working to keep the disease from spreading among the region’s most vulnerable, at risk populations. Detroit and Macomb County have the highest rate of outbreak related cases at about 2 cases per 10,000 residents.
The cause of the outbreak is not yet known but officials say they’re probing a link to the ongoing opioid and heroin crisis seen across Michigan, as well as other potential exposure routes.
“We’re continuing to see new cases almost every day so it is a concern,” said Macomb County Health Department Director Bill Ridella. “I think there is a strong connection to a number of these cases with the opioid and heroin problem. About half of the cases in Macomb County has some connection with drug use and/or heroin.”