Hepatitis A diagnosed in a food worker at Mt. Pleasant Meijer

MOUNT PLEASANT, MICH. - A bakery worker at a Meijer in Isabella County has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The news comes as health care workers in several southeast Michigan counties continue to investigate a spike in hepatitis A cases.

No hepatitis A illnesses have been linked to the Meijer worker, officials said. But they are urging people who may have  bought baked goods made between Aug. 23 and Sept. 20 at the store on 1015 Pickard St. in Mt. Pleasant to throw them away and watch for symptoms of an infection.

"These baked goods will bear the Meijer Bakery label, and would include individual items such as single doughnuts and rolls from the self-serve case," a news release from the health department said. "Consumers with any of these products still in their home should discard them immediately. Freezing does not kill the hepatitis A virus."

No other Meijer stores or Meijer bakeries at other locations are affected.

The Central Michigan District Health Department is working with Meijer to provide vaccines to any of their bakery employees and to make sure they are following recommended guidelines.

While the risk of exposure is low, officials said, patrons should keep an eye out for symptoms of hepatitis A infection. They include sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes.

Time from exposure to onset of illness is typically 15 to 50 days. The illness usually lasts several weeks to several months.

Most people recover without complications. However, people who have liver disease and become infected with Hepatitis A can be at risk for liver failure.

The notice about the Meijer worker comes as officials investigate an alarming outbreak of hepatitis A cases in the city of Detroit, and Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair counties. 

There have been 319 cases of confirmed hepatitis A  from Aug. 1, 2016 to Sept. 15, 2017 —  a sixteen-fold increase from Aug. 1, 2014 to Sept. 15, 2015. There have been 14 deaths.

“The southeast Michigan hepatitis A outbreak remains a top priority for public health officials from both the investigation and prevention standpoints,” Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for MDHHS, said. “Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease and in addition to our investigation of current and new cases, our focus is strongly aimed at increasing vaccination in adults, where hepatitis A vaccination is commonly low.”

Public health officials have been working to increase vaccinations among at-risk populations. For instance, there are ongoing vaccination campaigns in the Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne jails, as well as substance use treatment centers and homeless shelters. Discussions are under way about starting a campaign in the Detroit Receiving Center and Detroit Detention Center.

On Sept. 18, the state Medicaid program issued a letter to thousands of health care providers about the outbreak and testing and prevention information.

Ages of the cases in the outbreak range from 20 to 87 years, with a median age of 42.5 years, officials said. About two-thirds of the cases are men.

While no common source has been identified, transmission appears to be person-to-person through illicit drug use, sexual activity, and close contact among household members.

Vaccination is recommended for the following at-risk people:

  • Health care workers who have direct contact with patients
  • People who use injection and non-injection illegal drugs
  • People who participate in commercial exchange of sexual practices
  • People who are homeless or in transient living situations
  • People who are or have recently been incarcerated
  • People who have had personal contact (e.g., household, sexual) with hepatitis A patients
  • Food handlers
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People with liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
  • Any person who wishes to be immune to hepatitis A

For information about receiving a hepatitis A vaccine, contact your local health department.

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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