The state health department is still urging residents to protect themselves from an ongoing and potentially deadly liver disease outbreak. Over the past 2 years the Michigan Department of Health and Services have reported over 900 cases of hepatitis A, which is nearly 3 times as many as occurred between 2011 and 2015.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease spread through eating contaminated food or water, living with, or having sexual intercourse with an infected person. Symptoms begin with it looking like the flu, but then progressing to cause jaundiced skin and eyes, dark urine, and pale grey feces.

There’s good news on the local front, however. According to officials at the Livingston County Health Department, only 6 of these cases have occurred in the county, and none since March. Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Lindsay Gestro still cautions people against thinking they’re in the clear. Gestro says that just because these numbers are low doesn’t mean a risk still isn’t there. She said it’s just as easy to contract the disease travelling or eating out in an area that is more heavily affected.

Gestro said everybody is at risk for hepatitis A, but especially people over 22 to 24 years of age. It was around 25 years ago that the vaccination became more standardized and began being promoted more heavily throughout the state. The recommended age of vaccination is now 6 months to a year. The vaccine is done in 2 doses, with the first being 93% effective, and then the second virtually eliminating the risk altogether. Good handwashing and scrubbing for 20 seconds can also help. Gestro said that hand sanitizer does not work in fighting the disease.

More information on hepatitis A can be found at (MK)