The Detroit area is dealing with a significant Hepatitis A outbreak. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reports 630 known cases in Southeast Michigan in 2017, twenty of them resulting in death. There were 150 cases diagnosed in the city of Detroit alone last year. Public health officials are especially troubled by the number of food handlers who have been infected with the disease.
The Detroit Health Department has been sending out alerts, warning the public about restaurants with infected food handlers. On October 30 they announced they were investigating two separate cases of Hepatitis A, one at the Firewater Bar and Grill and a second at a Little Caesars restaurant.
“The Detroit Health Department is conducting a thorough investigation of both establishments to ensure appropriate food handing [sic] and cleaning protocols are being followed,” the alert said. “The Detroit Health Department has notified both establishments that infected employees are not to return to work until approved by their doctor. Both employees stopped working at the establishments once the diagnosis was confirmed. Both establishments have been cooperative with the investigation.”
A month later the health department announced that a McDonald’s food handler had been infected. “Those who consumed food and beverages from McDonald’s in Detroit located at 2889 West Grand Blvd from November 8th through November 22nd (exposure period) should consult their primary care provider to receive the Hepatitis A vaccine as early as possible, and before December 6, 2017,” the alert warned.
A case was reported the next day at the Greektown Casino. Guests with private Platinum member card access were warned that they could be at risk. Those who consumed food in that area between November 11 and November 22 were told to get a precautionary vaccination.
A case was reported at Paul’s Pizza on December 5. Officials said the risk of transmission is low because the establishment only offers delivery and carry-out service. Nevertheless, they recommend that those who consumed food and beverages from Paul’s Pizza “should consult their primary care provider to receive the Hepatitis A vaccine as early as possible, and before December 8, 2017.”
The most recent case involved a Jets Pizza worker on December 14. “Those who consumed food and beverages from Jet’s Pizza in Detroit located at 15235 East Seven Mile Road near Hayes from November 30 through December 11, 2017 should consult their primary care provider to receive the Hepatitis A vaccine as early as possible, and before December 21, 2017,” the advisory warned.
On December 18 the health department announced a citywide pop-up clinic to vaccinate food handlers.
“The Detroit Health Department recommends all food establishments work to get their food handlers vaccinated,” the announcement read. “To support this effort, the Detroit Health Department is launching a pop-up vaccination clinic program to provide easy and convenient access for Detroit food establishments to vaccinate their employees. Employees should bring their photo ID, health insurance card, and employers will be responsible for payment at $40 per employee.” The first round of vaccinations was completed on December 19. “The Department will set up more clinics throughout the City of Detroit, where clusters of restaurants are located,” officials said.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), which is found in feces of infected persons. According to the MDHHS, “You can get hepatitis A by eating contaminated food or water, during sex, or just by living with an infected person.” Infected individuals don’t exhibit symptoms until 15-50 days after exposure. Symptoms can include:
- nausea and vomiting
- belly pain
- feeling tired
- loss of appetite
- yellowing of the skin and eyes
- dark urine
- pale-colored feces (poop)
- joint pain
MDHHS recommends the following preventive measures:
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis A
- Wash hands after using the restroom and before eating or preparing meals for yourself or others
- Use your own towels, toothbrushes, and eating utensils
- Do not have sex with someone who has HAV infection
- Do not share food, drinks, drugs, or smokes with other people
- If you think you may have hepatitis A, see your medical provider
They are asking individuals who are infected with hepatitis A to cooperate with public health officials in order to protect others from the virus.
Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard