Florida’s ongoing Hepatitis A epidemic has already far eclipsed state records, but people shouldn’t expect the outbreak to end anytime soon, the state’s surgeon general said.
Scott Rivkees, the newly installed head of the state’s Department of Health (FDH), said that 3,009 cases of the virus have been reported this year as of Sept. 7, and that the state is still working to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of high-risk or medically vulnerable patients to curb the virus’ spread.
Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
Many of the early symptoms of Hepatitis A are easily mistaken for the symptoms of influenza or food poisoning. Common symptoms include bile in the urine, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, jaundice, loss of appetite and abdominal discomfort. On average, adults begin experiencing these symptoms approximately 28 days after being infected with the disease.
Only a small percentage of adults do not show any signs at all. In comparison, 90 percent of children who have Hepatitis A do not show symptoms of the disease, making it easy for children who seem healthy to transmit the virus to other individuals. Approximately 10 to 15% of those infected with Hepatitis A experience a recurrence of symptoms for six months after the initial infection. These symptoms also contribute to the spread of the disease.
The Florida Department of Health in Citrus County has been partnering with Daystar Life Center, Lion’s Club and the Salvation Army, administering the Hepatitis A vaccination. The shots are free to anyone and are available at Daystar Life Center on Tuesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. and at the Lions Club in Homosassa on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. They also do other outreach at various other facilities every month. Please contact the FDH for locations.