CORUNNA — A case of hepatitis A contracted by an inmate at the Shiawassee County Jail, possibly exposing others to the disease, was confirmed Friday by officials at the county sheriff’s office and health department.
“Individuals who were incarcerated in the Shiawassee County Jail between May 29, 2018 through June 18, 2018 may have been exposed to hepatitis A,” a press release issued Friday by the health department states. “The Shiawassee County Health Department and the Shiawassee County Jail are working closely together to identify potential exposure.”
Sheriff Brian BeGole said that a male inmate who was in jail during that time period was diagnosed with hepatitis A after leaving the jail. It is unclear, BeGole said, whether or not the man contracted the virus while he was in jail.
“I presume he came in with it,” BeGole said, “There’s no reported case with anyone else.”
BeGole said the sheriff’s office and health department are contacting inmates who were in jail at the time to test for hepatitis A and vaccinate them if they desire it. In addition, he said, current inmates are being given the option to get the vaccine. Staffers at the jail have all been vaccinated as well, he added.
“We cannot, by law, force people to get this vaccine,” BeGole said.
Protections against hepatitis A have been going on ever since Shiawassee County was deemed an “outbreak county” for the virus by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in February. At the time, there was four confirmed cases of hepatitis A in the county. It is unclear how many there are today.
There have been no local deaths connected to the virus.
The health department, in partnership with the county jail, started a campaign to vaccinate inmates. To date, about 70 inmates have been vaccinated.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. People with hepatitis A can be infectious for two weeks prior to exhibiting symptoms.
“Vaccination can prevent the disease if given within 14 days after exposure,” the press release states. “Anyone who was incarcerated in the Shiawassee County Jail during these dates and has not been vaccinated for hepatitis A or who has sudden onset of any symptoms should contact their doctor. It is important to get the vaccination as soon as possible.”
Symptoms include jaundice, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Symptoms last less than two months; however, some people can be ill for as long as six months.
For more information on the virus, visit michigan.gov/HepatitisAOutbreak or call the health department at (989) 743-2356.