Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees recently declared a Public Health Emergency to address the increase in hepatitis A cases in Florida due to the current national outbreak.
State of Florida under Public Health Emergency for Hepatisis A
Since 2018, there have been more than 22,000 cases of hepatitis A in the U.S. and more than 2,500 cases in Florida. Despite the recent rise in cases, you can protect yourself from the virus and help stop hepatitis A in Florida.
Prevent the Spread of Hepatitis A and Know the Signs and Symptoms
Remember to “VEST” against hepatitis A:Vaccinate, Educate yourself, practice basic Sanitation by washing your hands, and know that the Florida Department of Health and their health partners are Tracking the virus with the goal of bringing this outbreak to an end.
The hepatitis A vaccination is your best protection against the virus. Most vaccinations come in two doses given six months apart.
FDOH recommends vaccination if you:
• Are homeless or your housing is unstable.
• Use illicit recreational drugs—injected or not.
• Want protection (immunity) from the virus.
• Have adopted or care for a child who comes from a country where hepatitis A is common.
• Are 60 or older and have a serious underlying medical condition.
• Have chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or C.
• Have a clotting-factor disorder.
• Have come into direct contact with others who have the virus.
• Are a man who has sex with other men.
• Have traveled to or will travel to countries where the virus is common—visit the CDC’s Traveler’s Health.
Find a vaccine:
• Talk to your health care provider—ask if hepatitis A vaccine is a good option for you or your family.
• Call a county health department (CHD). See current vaccine costs—ask the CHD if you are eligible for free or low-cost vaccine.
• Use VaccineFinder.org to find vaccine in your area.
A person can have hepatitis A for up two weeks without feeling sick but during that time they are spreading the virus to others. Symptoms usually start two to six weeks after infection and last less than two months.
Preventing human contact with feces is what sanitation is about. Wash your hands with soap and water and help stop the spread of hepatitis A.
Know hepatitis symptoms:
• Stomach pain
• Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
• No appetite
• Joint pain
• Pale or clay-colored feces
• Dark-colored urine
Know how hepatitis A spreads
Hepatitis A is caused by a contagious virus that infects the liver—it can lead to serious liver problems. The virus spreads through the feces of people who have the virus. If a person with the virus doesn’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, feces can get on their hands and can transfer to objects, food and drinks. When these things are shared, other people can unknowingly swallow the virus. If a person who has the virus comes in close contact or touches other people—this includes sex—the virus can also spread.
Educational tools for communities, businesses and health care providers
The Soap & Vaccinate Campaign is a simple message that benefits everyone. Posters, fliers and palm cards can be downloaded for office and commercial printing. Available in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.
FDOH encourages businesses to post and distribute our hepatitis A information for employees. Posters cover topics such as handwashing, hepatitis A symptoms, vaccines and restroom disinfection.
Hepatitis A information for health care providers includes a poster covering medical settings disinfection and a timeline for reporting to CHDs.
Stop the spread of hepatitis A and wash your hands:
• After you use the bathroom—use soap and warm, running water and wash for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill hepatitis A germs.
• After you touch people or public surfaces; change a diaper; cough, sneeze or use a tissue; use tobacco; and eat or drink.
• Before you prepare food or work with food that isn’t already packaged.
• If you are an employer, require employees to use proper sanitation practices for preparing food, and for surface cleaning work areas and public areas like bathrooms.
Reports from health care providers and labs is essential
If you are a health care provider or laboratory worker, report confirmed and suspected cases of hepatitis A immediately to your county health department during regular office hours. If your CHD can’t be reached, contact the FDOH Bureau of Epidemiology at 850-245-4401.
To learn more about prevention, symptoms and what’s happening in our community to prevent the spread of hepatitis A, visit: FloridaHealth.gov