LANSING, Mich. (WJBK) - The state of Michigan is mobilizing a coordination center to try and stop the spread of Hepatitis A in the station that's already responsible for 18 deaths in the past year.
Since August of 2016, 18 people across Michigan have died from Hepatitis A and another 450 have been sick. Most of the cases were from Metro Detroit and the state is working to try and stop the spread of the disease.
In Lansing, the State of Michigan is mobilizing the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center, or CHECC. to try and stop the spread of the disease.
Hepatitis A attacks the liver. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the eyes or skin. Health officials recommend frequent hand washing with soap and water since people may be contagious without showing symptoms.
"Hepatitis A is an extremely contagious disease, so once you start seeing a couple cases it's very easy to transmit from person to person," Health and Human Services spokesperson Angela Minicuci said. From August 1 through now, 14 times what we would typically see.
Authorities say there are 457 Hepatitis A cases confirmed since August of 2016, most of which are in Southeast Michigan. While Hepatitis A is often spread to multiple people through food like lettuce or strawberries, this strain is different. It's spreading from person to person.
"We're seeing people with substance use sharing needles, in homeless groups where they're potentially coming into close contact with others," Minicuci said.
They've also seen a rise in cases in among incarcerated individuals and men having sex with other men, then spreading it to others.
FOX 2 has reported on multiple cases in multiple counties. Most recently, two people who work at Detroit restaurants were diagnosed: one at Firewater Bar and Grill on east Milwaukee and one at the Little Caesar's Pizza on Fenkell. Those individuals are off work and being treated but people who ate there between October 15th and October 24th are being advised to get vaccinated within the next week.
"It's spreading person to person - and certainly if someone handles food and they have hepatitis a they can give it to another individual," Jackie Scott, CHECC incident response coordinator said.
The effort underway to coordinate with health departments throughout the state to keep this outbreak from spreading any further.