Kent Co. added to hepatitis A outbreak area

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent is the latest county to be added to the state’s designated hepatitis A outbreak area.

Inclusion in the outbreak district means the state will keep a closer eye on what’s going on in Kent County and there will be more coordination to fight the spread of the disease there.

The Kent County Health Department said it was recently notified of a fourth case among county residents. Since two cases were diagnosed within 100 days of each other, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services included Kent County in the state’s outbreak jurisdiction.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says it has handled 905 cases of hepatitis A since the outbreak began two years ago. That's nearly triple the amount of reports between 2011 and 2015.

The majority of those cases are in the southeast part of the state, as West Michigan has mostly avoided the virus.

Hepatitis A attacks the liver. It can cause fatigue, fever, nausea or loss of appetite, abdominal pain, joint pain, and jaundice. It is spread through the feces of the person infected.

"So if someone is infected with that and they use the restroom, and they don't wash their hands properly and they go and prepare food for someone — that's a real common way that Hepatitis A can be transmitted," epidemiologist Brian Hartl told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

Hartl said can also be transferred through some sexual activity.

'I don't think it's a time to panic," Hartl said. "Obviously we talked about the high risk groups, so those people are at most risk of getting the infection.

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