By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

The Florida Department of Health is urging residents to take steps to stop the spread of hepatitis A, which is on the rise in Florida and in parts of the United States.

Health officials in Martin County are confirming 32 cases of hepatitis A and 5 deaths associated with complications from the virus.

“Our community is one of many communities across the state and the nation experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak.” said Carolann Vitani, Interim Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health, Martin County. “With this widespread activity, it is essential that people take steps to protect themselves through good handwashing and vaccination.”

Martin County, FL
Image/David Benbennick

On August 1, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees declared a Public Health Emergency to address the increase in hepatitis A cases in Florida. The declaration signals to health care providers the importance of screening and vaccination for all individuals considered at high risk for contracting hepatitis A. While anyone can contract hepatitis A, individuals who are considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDOH to be high risk include: those who are experiencing homelessness; intravenous and non-intravenous drug users and men who have sex with other men. The declaration also recommends vaccination for individuals or who are at heightened risk for suffering serious complications from contracting hepatitis A. This includes individuals with chronic liver disease, clotting factor disorders and individuals over 60 years of age with underlying medical conditions.

Since January 2018, Florida has reported 2,740 hepatitis A cases in the statewide outbreak, including 31 deaths.

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