Next month I’ll be in Michigan talking food safety with Don at a live podcast recording as part of the Global Food Law Current Issues Conference.
Added to the list for our chat is a local issue, a massive hepatitis A outbreak. Tragically, according to USA Today, the outbreak has been linked to 27 deaths and hundreds of cases.
Most of those who have died in Michigan in this outbreak are 50 or older, Fielder said. And they died of liver failure, septic shock or other organ failure.
“Generally, it’s been people who are more sick or people who have less access to health care,” Fielder said. “You know, we’ve also seen a homeless component to this. We’re seeing this driven by a substance use disorder risk group.”
People who use illegal drugs account for about half of outbreak-related cases..
“It’s a very hard group to reach, and it’s a very hard group to get public health messaging to. There’s a lot of trust issues with government entities in general. So there’s a lot of outreach going out from local public health to … people they do trust in the community.”
As of Wednesday before Memorial Day, the hardest hit areas are Macomb County, north of Detroit, with 220 cases; Detroit itself with 170; elsewhere in Wayne County, where Detroit is located, with 144; and Oakland County, to the west of Macomb County where Pontiac is located, with 114 cases, according to the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services.
Part of the problem: As many as 35 restaurant workers in the Detroit area were found to have the virus and may have spread it unknowingly to diners. The virus is contagious weeks before a person begins to exhibit symptoms, which makes it extremely challenging for public health officials to manage.