Livingston County is one of multiple counties in Southeast Michigan considered to be part of a larger, ongoing outbreak of the Hepatitis A virus.

The extremely contagious liver disease is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Since August 2016, there have been 583 cases with a hospitalization rate of over 85% and 20 deaths linked to the virus across the region and Michigan leads the United States in cases per capita this year. Six cases and one death are attributed to Livingston County, and all but one required hospitalization. The virus appears to be spreading through direct person-to-person contact but has a lengthy incubation period and a wide range of potential sources so local health officials say it’s a pretty serious situation.

Livingston County has been selected to receive state funding to hire additional nurses and more support staff to conduct additional outreach and expanded vaccine clinics for a targeted population considered more high risk for contracting Hepatitis A. Director/Health Officer Diane McCormick was before the Livingston County Board of Commissioners General Government & Health and Human Services Subcommittee Monday night to provide an update on the situation, and a resolution was passed to accept the state funding. She tells WHMI they urge everyone get vaccinated, as well as those considered high risk, stressing the outbreak is nothing to take lightly.

Those considered high risk 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. McCormick says the vaccine offers lifetime protection, is very effective and involves two doses but even one can prove to be very beneficial. It will be offered free to high risk individuals who are un-insured or under-insured through the local health department.

McCormick says they’re looking at providing the vaccine to the Livingston County Jail to vaccinate inmates coming in and out, although no cases have been identified there to date. The Health Department will also be in contact with local restaurants and the food service industry, which she says is not at a higher risk of contracting the disease but it’s deemed a priority because of the potential to spread the virus to large numbers of people very rapidly. McCormick says they’re also looking at expanding the availability of walk-in clinics and will also be going off site into the community at various locations and providing vaccinations.

For those with insurance, local pharmacies and healthcare providers typically stock the vaccine. It can also be purchased out of pocket through the health department.

More information and updates are available through the health department's website. That link is provided. A press release issued by mut9iple departments is also attached. (JM)