Michigan state health officials say a hepatitis A outbreak responsible for killing 22 people in our state has arrived in Calhoun County.
Newschannel 3's Anna Giles reported in Battle Creek with a warning from doctors on protection from the virus.
For several months health officials have known about at least two cases of hepatitis A in Calhoun County, but now the cases are officially connected to the Southeast Michigan outbreak they consider the threat much higher.
Calhoun county Public Health Department Medical director Dr. William Nettleton says a potent strain of hepatitis A has officially made its way to West Michigan changing the response to the two local cases.
The department will do more to educate people on prevention, given the strand is causing very high rates of hospitalization.
Nettleton said, "One unique aspect of this type of hepatitis A is that it's more potent, more people are ending up in the hospital more people are sick."
Southeast Michigan has reported 22 deaths from this strain since August 2016
Nettleton warns it's spread through close contact with someone infected.
He said, “It's also transmitted through sex, also through increased risk for those who inject or use non injected illegal drugs."
Nettleton says heavy opioid use in Calhoun County puts the area at even higher risk.
Those who already have liver issues need to be extra vigilant.
He reminds people that basic steps like washing your hands with soap and getting vaccinated go a long way.
Nettleton said, "If you do not have insurance or are unsure go ahead and call the Calhoun County Public Health Department and we can assess and you may qualify for a dose of hepatitis A vaccine."
The Calhoun County Public Health Department will be hosting extended vaccination clinic hours on Tuesdays in direct connection to this latest development.