Hepatitis A on the rise in Florida

After the vaccine for hepatitis A was introduced in 1996, cases of the viral infection of the liver plummeted.
By UM News

After the vaccine for hepatitis A was introduced in 1996, cases of the viral infection of the liver plummeted.

Hepatitis A on the rise in Florida

By UM News
After a contagious viral infection of the liver, hepatitis A is spread through people-to-people contact or through contaminated food or water.

Hepatitis A, a contagious viral infection of the liver often spread through people-to-people contact or through the consumption of contaminated food or water, is on the rise in Florida, with more than 700 cases reported this year.

That number already exceeds the 549 total cases reported in the Sunshine State in 2018, which saw a near doubling of the cases reported in 2017. The number of reported cases between 2016 and 2017 more than doubled, jumping from 122 to 276.

Florida health officials have not determined the cause of the outbreaks, which were concentrated in Central Florida, but began making their way from Martin and Palm Beach counties to Broward County last week. But the uptick in Florida reflects a national trend that the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified in 15 states in 2016, primarily among people who used drugs or were homeless.

Since then, the CDC reported, there have been more than 15,000 cases, 8,500 hospitalizations, and 140 deaths across the nation linked to hepatitis A, which is preventable by vaccination. In fact, since the hepatitis A vaccine was introduced in 1996, the number of new cases has dropped dramatically—by 95 percent.

John ClochesyJohn M. Clochesy, vice dean and professor at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, discusses hepatitis A.

How is hepatitis A transmitted and what are the symptoms?

Hepatitis A usually involves ingesting something contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Vaccination and good hand washing, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food, are important to decreasing the risk of hepatitis A. The symptoms for adults include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, which are usually resolved within two months of infection. Children under 6 usually do not have symptoms.

So far, Florida health officials report that three people in Florida have died from hepatitis A this year. Is that common? Don’t most people recover from it? 

Most people do recover from hepatitis A.  Those who develop complications from hepatitis A often have other health conditions.  

Who should get the vaccine?

Those with chronic liver conditions, those whose immune systems are compromised or are traveling to developing countries, men who have sex with men, and those using street drugs should get the hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination for both hepatitis A and B is recommended for children.  

What’s the difference between hepatitis A, B, and C?

 While Hepatitis A, B, and C are all viral infections of the liver, hepatitis A causes a serious infection that usually resolves on its own within two months. Hepatitis B and C, on the other hand, commonly result in chronic infection of the liver and increase a person’s risk of developing cancer of the liver. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through blood and body fluids. There is also a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B and there is now an effective treatment for hepatitis C.