Hepatitis A cases climb to 239 this year

Reginald Ferguson, center, a resident of the Kenwood Inn, St. Petersburg, talks with Rachel Ilic, an environmental epidemiologist, left, and Fannie Vaughn, right, a nurse with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County in October 2019. The health workers were part of an effort to send “foot teams” door-to-door to vaccinate people against hepatitis A.


Florida had 34 reported cases of hepatitis A last week, bringing the total number of newly reported cases this year to 239 as of Saturday.

County health departments are playing a bigger role in the fight against hepatitis A, as they are now responsible for administering 57 percent of first-dose vaccinations in the state, a Department of Health report shows.

Hepatitis A cases have increased in recent years, with a massive spike in 2019. The state had 3,397 reported cases last year, compared to 548 in 2018.

State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who doubles as secretary of the Department of Health, issued a public health emergency Aug. 1 that warned about the spread of the virus and encouraged citizens to get vaccinated and wash their hands.

Hepatitis A, which causes liver damage, is spread through such things as fecal matter, sexual contact and intravenous drug use. The state had 156 hepatitis A cases reported in January across 59 counties.

The Central Florida region had the highest hepatitis A activity levels.

The Department of Health noted that 63 percent of the hepatitis A cases involved reports of one of five identified risk behaviors, including drug use, recent homelessness and men who have sex with other men. Thirty-seven percent of people reported no or unknown risk factors.


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