Florida Declares Hepatitis A Public Health Emergency

Hepatitis A outbreaks reported by 25 states

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Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees declared a public health emergency in response to an accelerating Hepatitis A outbreak.

The number of Hepatitis A cases reported in Florida by the Department of Health during 2019 increased to 2,034 as of July 27, 2019.

This new information represents 4-times the 548 Hepatitis A cases reported in Florida for all of 2018.

This is not good news since there are 5 more months left in 2019.

“I am declaring this Public Health Emergency as a proactive step to appropriately alert the public to this serious illness and prevent further spread of Hepatitis A in our state,” Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said in a press release. 

“The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination. It is important that we vaccinate as many high-risk individuals as possible in order to achieve herd immunity.”

Nationwide, 25 states have reported 22,566 Hepatitis A cases and 221 related fatalities since 2016, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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 The unfortunate leaders are:

  • Kentucky: 4,793 (As of July 13)
  • Ohio: 3,234 (As of July 29) 

Recently, a study published in June 2019, investigated where and under what circumstances patients receive hepatitis A vaccination. This study found physician recommendations have been a top influencer of decisions to receive hepatitis A vaccinations.

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“In the context of enhancing patient care, our results underscore the need of increasing awareness among primary care providers of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations for vaccinating adults at increased risk for hepatitis A infection,” according to a statement from this research team.

“The CDC recommends the use of evidence-based strategies, such as provider reminder/recall systems, standing orders and provider education programs, to reduce missed opportunities to vaccinate eligible persons,” the research team said. 

Additionally, food-service workers represent another sizable, at-risk population since their daily responsibilities include directly handling food and drink, says the CDC.

According to previous studies, the restaurant market segment of the food-service industry has significant challenges. 

As an example, a 2015 study conducted by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, found the food services and hospitality industry to have the highest rates of substance use disorders of all employment sectors.

The spread of germs from the hands of food workers to food is an important cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants. It accounts for 89 percent of outbreaks in which food was contaminated by food workers, reported the CDC on June 18, 2019.

There are 3 HAV vaccines approved in the USA: Vaqta, Havrix, and Twinrix, which are available at pharmacies in most states. 

Furthermore, immune globulin can provide short-term protection against hepatitis A, both pre- and post-exposure.

Any vaccine can cause side effects, which should be reported to a healthcare provider or the CDC.