Florida is the Newest Hepatitis A Hot-Spot

Hepatitis A vaccines and Immune globulin treatments are CDC recommended
Tampa skyline
(Precision Vaccinations)

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is reporting record-setting hepatitis A cases during 2018. 

The number of hepatitis A cases in Florida has steadily increased each month since April 2018 and has remained at or above the previous 5-year-average, reported the FDOH.   

From January 1st through September 30, 2018, there were 233 hepatitis A cases reported among 23 counties, which is more than doubled when compared with 2017. 

Recently, 2 central Florida counties have reported significant increases. 

On October 22nd, Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary’s Bar and Grille, located at 1800 East 8th Avenue in Tampa, between October 4 – 20.

And in Pinellas County, 58 hepatitis A cases have been reported as of October 22nd.

“We are on track to report the highest number of hepatitis A cases since 2005,” said DOH-Pinellas Director Dr. Ulyee Choe.   

“We have enhanced our public health efforts in encouraging prevention to reduce new cases, but those at risk need to know that there’s an effective vaccine that protects them from this disease,” said Dr. Choe in a press release. 

But the FDOH is taking immediate action to limit this outbreak. 

As part of its public health mission, DOH-Pinellas is offering the 2-dose hepatitis A vaccine at no cost to adults and children. The usual $70.66 cost for adults is waived to remove the barrier of cost. 

Hepatitis A vaccines are always provided at no cost to Florida children and teens through the age of 18. 

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver. People infected with hepatitis A are most contagious from 2 weeks before onset of symptoms to 1 week afterward. 

Hepatitis A symptoms usually start within 28 days of exposure to the virus with a range of 15-50 days, says the FDH. 

Hepatitis A rates in the United States have declined by more than 95 percent since hepatitis A vaccine first became available in 1995, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   

But, 2018 has been a significant reversal of this trend.

Currently, the states of Arkansas, California, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia are reporting widespread hepatitis A outbreaks. 

To combat these outbreaks, on October 25th, 2018, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved the hepatitis A vaccine for all people experiencing homelessness.

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) can be transmitted to people 2 ways, which are:

  • Person-to-person transmission through the fecal-oral route 
  • Exposure to contaminated food or water can cause common-source outbreaks and sporadic cases of HAV infection.

HAV infection is prevented with vaccines. Vaccination with a 2-dose series is the best way to prevent HAV infection. 

Hepatitis A vaccines have been licensed in the United States for use in persons 1 year of age and older.

Additionally, Immune globulin can provide short-term protection against hepatitis A, both pre- and post-exposure. Immune globulin must be administered within 2 weeks after exposure for maximum protection. Additional Guidance is available here.

Recently, during September 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new formulation of GamaSTAN immune globulin for HAV post-exposure prophylaxis.

The CDC says that for persons over 40 years of age, an immune globulin is preferred for HAV post-exposure prophylaxis. 

There are 2 single-antigen hepatitis A vaccines and 1 combination vaccine currently licensed in the United States. All HAV vaccines are inactivated vaccines.

The single-antigen hepatitis A vaccines are:

And the combination vaccine is:

  • TWINRIX® : Combined hepatitis A (in a lower dosage than single-antigen formulations) and hepatitis B vaccine

Most pharmacies in the USA offer hepatitis vaccines. To request a vaccination appointment, please visit this page.

The CDC Vaccine Price List displays current HAV vaccine contract prices and general information. And, vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.