By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Since the beginning of the year, Florida has seen 2,034 hepatitis A cases, nearly double the total cases from 2014-2018 (1175).

Hepatitis A Vaccine
Image/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

While the Department of Health issued a Public Health Advisory last November, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees declared a Public Health Emergency to address the increase in Hepatitis A cases in Florida.

This allows the Department of Health to take actions necessary to protect public health. In addition, the declaration builds upon the Public Health Advisory and reemphasizes the importance of the Hepatitis A vaccination as the best way to prevent Hepatitis A infection.

“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,” said Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees. “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. I will continue to work with Governor DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez to take proactive steps to protect the health of Florida’s residents and visitors.”

Pursuant to the Public Health Emergency, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) will request assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This 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 CDC and FDOH to be high risk include: those who are experiencing homelessness; intravenous and non-intravenous drug users; men who have sex with other men; individuals in an emergency room or other acute care setting, after being administered an opioid antagonist, such as naloxone; individuals working with homeless persons or intravenous drug users outside of health care settings; and first responders.

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 a serious underlying medical condition, as determined by their health care provider, in critically impacted counties.   

In Florida, the critically impacted counties are: Brevard, Citrus, Glades, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Liberty, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Sumter, Taylor, and Volusia.