Florida’s Surgeon General Issues Hepatitis A Virus Advisory

Seventy-seven percent of Florida’s hepatitis A cases require hospitalization

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The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) Surgeon General issued a state-wide Public Health Advisory to inform the public of an increase in hepatitis A cases in Florida. 

Celeste Philip, MD, MPH, Surgeon General, and State Health Officer, said in a media release that ‘this health advisory is necessary to protect the public health and safety.’ 

Dr. Philip’s announcement said ‘the increase in Hepatitis A cases is centered predominantly in the Tampa Bay and Orlando metropolitan areas.’ 

And, ‘most of these hepatitis A virus (HAV) cases do not involve international travel exposures.’ 

Since January 2018, 385 cases of hepatitis A virus infection have been reported in Florida. 

This is more than 3 times the previous 5-year average of 126 cases. 

While most patients with HAV infections will fully recover, 77 percent of recent cases in Florida has required hospitalization, said this announcement. 

The Florida Health Department said it will continue to work closely with community partners to raise awareness and promote hepatitis A vaccinations. 

Florida’s hepatitis A cases mirror national trends across the USA, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   

Approximately 8,000 HAV cases have been reported during 2018 in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. 

Separately, to help address one high-risk group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved on October 25th, 2018, the ‘recommendation for routine hepatitis A vaccination for all people experiencing homelessness.’  

In the USA, the homeless population is reported to be over half-million people. 

Recommended:

A report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that, in 2017, more than 554,000 people were homeless on any given night. 

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. 

Symptoms usually start within 28 days of exposure to the virus with a range of 15-50 days. Not everyone who is infected will have all the symptoms. 

Steps to prevent infection with hepatitis A include washing hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating and before preparing or serving food. 

And, get vaccinated if you are at risk of contracting hepatitis A. 

To request a hepatitis vaccination appointment at a local pharmacy, 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.

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

The Florida Department of Health is nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.