Deadly hepatitis A outbreak studied

Officials say today at least 14 people have contracted the usually non-fatal liver disease since late August, and in recent days a 67-year- old man has died.

Health officials say a restaurant or grocery store worker with poor hygiene may be responsible for a fatal outbreak of hepatitis A in suburban Detroit.

Officials say today at least 14 people have contracted the usually non-fatal liver disease since late August, and in recent days a 67-year- old man has died.

Most of the victims _ in their late 20s to late 60s _ have been treated and released from area hospitals. At least three people remain hospitalized, although few if any more new cases are expected.

Interviews with surviving victims are under way in hopes health officials can trace the source of the virus that causes the disease, which is spread by oral contact with fecal matter.

Officials say simple hand-washing can prevent the illness.

Dr. Carol Bird of the county health department theorizes a worker at a restaurant or a grocery store deli counter may have spread the disease to customers over a period of a few hours, four to six weeks ago.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says there is no danger to the public, since the incubation period has passed. He says “this is not a crisis” but “it is a problem.

Earlier this year nearly 300 people elsewhere in Michigan were sickened by hepatitis A linked to contaminated strawberries. Most of the victims were children who ate the federally funded fruit in school lunches, triggering a nationwide scare.

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