Saginaw County has joined a growing number of counties affected by an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in southeast Michigan that has hospitalized hundreds and killed more than two dozen.

Officials with the Saginaw County Department of Public Health announced there have been two confirmed cases of the disease in Saginaw County linked to the outbreak.

Across Michigan, there had been 736 cases of hepatitis A linked to the outbreak as of Feb. 6, resulting in 24 deaths in 596 hospitalizations, according to health department officials.

The counties and cities with the most cases include Macomb County, with 208 cases; city of Detroit, with 160 cases; Wayne County, with 128 cases; and Oakland County, with 100 cases.

The Lenawee County Health Department has a confirmed case of hepatitis A.

A Lenawee County resident tested positive for Hepatitis A. It is believed to be linked to an outbreak in southeast Michigan.

The health department says the individual is not considered to be at high risk of spreading the disease to other people.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease, an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus, or HAV.

As the outbreak continues to spread across the state, health officials remind people the most effective way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination and hand washing with soap and water.

HAV is found in feces of people with hepatitis A and is most commonly spread by consuming contaminated food or water, during sex, or by living with an infected person. Symptoms of HAV infection include:

·       Nausea and vomiting

·       Stomach pain

·       Feeling tired

·       Fever

·       Loss of appetite

·       Yellowing of the skin and eyes

·       Dark urine

·       Pale-colored feces

·       Joint pain

The hepatitis A virus is a contagious liver disease most commonly spread by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with
feces or by oral contact with contaminated objects.

Most infections result from contact with an infected household member
or sex partners. It is not spread through coughing or sneezing.

Hepatitis A can range from mild to serious, lasting a few weeks to several months. Anyone who has hepatitis A can spread the
virus to others starting 1-2 weeks prior to symptoms appearing.

Symptoms may include fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea/
vomiting,fever, yellow skin (jaundice), dark urine, pale stool and joint pain. Some people have no symptoms.

Vaccination is strongly encouraged for all eligible individuals, as multiple counties in southeast Michigan have seen outbreaks of hepatitis A in recent months. Children ages 1 through 18 should receive the vaccine as part of the routine vaccination schedule.

The vaccine has been available since 1996, but it did not become a routine recommendation for children until 2006.