In a follow-up on the hepatitis A outbreak in Florida that started last year, state health officials reported 189 hepatitis A cases in 26 counties in January 2019.

Image/FLDOH screen shot
Image/FLDOH screen shot

This past month, 56 (29%) cases were co-infected with chronic hepatitis B or C. Co-infection with more than one type of viral hepatitis can lead to more severe liver disease and increase the risk of developing liver cancer.

This brings the total outbreak cases to 736 since 2018. Of this total, seven out of 10 cases required hospitalization and five people died.

Since January 1, 2018, 97% of Florida’s cases (n=711) have likely been acquired in Florida. Cases likely acquired in Florida share several common risk factors including drug use (both injection and non-injection drugs), identifying as men who have sex with men, and recently experiencing homelessness.

Health officials say individuals with any of these risk factors should receive the hepatitis A vaccine, and providers are encouraged to actively offer the hepatitis A vaccine to individuals at risk. Vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A infection.

Talking Hepatitis A with Dr Amesh Adalja

Hepatitis A rates have decreased by more than 95% since the first vaccine became available in 1995. However, since March of 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been monitoring outbreaks in 15 states among persons who use drugs and persons who are homeless. Kentucky and West Virginia have been the most heavily impacted, and response efforts are ongoing.