Six U.P. health departments awarded $20,000 each to help stop hepatitis A outbreak

LANSING — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently issued $500,000 in grants to 25 local health departments to help combat Michigan’s hepatitis A outbreak, including six in the Upper Peninsula.

According to a MDHHS press release, the Chippewa County Health Department, Public Health Delta & Menominee, Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft District Health Department, Marquette County Health Department and the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department were all issued $20,000 each to increase vaccination outreach to high-risk populations.

Those with a history of injection and non-injection drug use, homelessness or transient housing, incarceration and men who have sex with men are thought to be at greater risk of contracting the disease.

“This has been the largest person-to-person hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan’s history, with more than 780 cases,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS chief medical executive, in the press release. “Increasing vaccination outreach to high-risk populations across the state is essential to stopping the spread of hepatitis A in Michigan.

The funding is part of a $7.1 million appropriation approved by the Legislature in late 2017 to address the hepatitis A outbreak. It can be used for staffing to conduct educational and vaccination outreach efforts. Twenty health departments that are part of the outbreak jurisdiction have already been awarded $2.5 million.

This latest round of grants covers the remainder of the state’s local health departments. To be considered part of the outbreak jurisdiction, a county must have two or more cases of hepatitis A related to the outbreak strain. The 25 health departments receiving this most recent round of funding are not currently part of the outbreak jurisdiction.

Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the feces of people with hepatitis A and spread by eating contaminated food or water, during sex or by living with an infected person.

Hepatitis A symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-colored feces
  • Joint pain

Getting vaccinated, practicing good hand washing and avoiding sex with infected partners are ways to prevent getting infected. The hepatitis A vaccine is available at local pharmacies, through healthcare providers and at local health departments.

For more information about hepatitis A, including a calendar of vaccination clinics, click HERE.