It’s not absolutely necessary to get a hepatitis A vaccination according to state health officials, despite the fact that Michigan is in the midst of a hepatitis A outbreak and Indiana recently cautioned residents to get the vaccine if they plan to visit the Great Lakes state, or other parts of the country dealing with an outbreak of hep A, over the summer.
Indiana’s State Department of Health recently urged Hoosiers to get hep A vaccinations if they plan on visiting Michigan or Kentucky, another state dealing with hundreds of confirmed cases of hep A.
But Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Spokesperson Lynn Sutfin says according to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, most people should be safe from hep A infection if they regularly wash their hands and generally practice good hygiene.
“As far as traveling to any other parts of the state, or in the United States, [getting a vaccine] is not a recommendation that the CDC has provided, or that we are providing,” Sutfin said.
Those who are most at risk for infection, according to Sutfin, are people who use drugs, have a history of homelessness or transient housing, anyone who’s been incarcerated, and “men who have sex with men.”
“Those are the people who should be considering getting vaccinated,” Sutfin said.
Sutfin says people who work or live closely with at-risk populations should talk to their doctor about whether to get vaccinated.
Since 2016, there have been more than 800 hep A cases in Michigan, including 25 deaths. Nearly 80 percent of cases have required hospitalization. Most documented cases were in Wayne and Macomb counties, but Sutfin says counties across the state are dealing with the outbreak, and trying to prevent future cases.
There’s been a decline in the number of new hep A cases in Michigan since earlier this year. Though, Sutfin says the outbreak could still get worse.
“It’s got to be like a 100-day period ... without cases related to the outbreak before we would even think about considering this outbreak over, and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon,” Sutfin said. “This is a person-to-person transmission, so somebody who has hepatitis A can infect several individuals in a short period of time before they even realize they have the disease.”
She says the state will continue to work with county help departments to try and limit the spread of the liver disease.
Michigan’s hep A outbreak seems relatively severe compared to Kentucky, where there’s been more than 300 confirmed cases and just one death. California recently “demobilized” its hep A outbreak response after a decline in reported cases. California reports fewer cases than Michigan too, with 704 confirmed infections, and 21 deaths.