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DOH-Orange Recommends Prevention and Vaccination for Hepatitis A

By Kent Donahue

October 29, 2018

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) is recommending prevention and vaccination to halt a rise in locally-acquired hepatitis A cases in Orange County.  

There has been a record number of locally-acquired hepatitis A cases this year, and as of October 22, 2018, the number of confirmed cases acquired locally has reached 45. This represents a greater than 3000% increase over the prior 5-year average of 1.4 cases per year.  In the previous 5 years, the majority of hepatitis A cases reported in Orange County were imported or acquired during international travel (outside of the United States).  This year, 85% of the cases were acquired within the United States, and most of those within Orange County. For the total number of hepatitis A cases 53, this is the highest number we’ve seen since 2003. 

Hepatitis A virus causes an illness that affects the liver, and is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or eating or drinking contaminated food or water. People are at increased risk of getting hepatitis A when they have been in close and continuous contact with an infected person, particularly sharing a household or sexual activity. 

Symptoms include feeling tired, fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, yellow eyes and skin (jaundice), pale-colored feces, pain in the abdomen, joint pain, and nausea and vomiting. 

“Given the startling rise in hepatitis A cases in Orange County, it is critical for the community to assist in prevention efforts,” said DOH-Orange Health Officer Dr. Kevin Sherin. “Besides vaccination, handwashing is the single most important prevention method to stop the spread of this virus.” 

Handwashing with soap and water is encouraged to prevent the spread of the virus.  Wash hands well after a bathroom visit and after changing diapers to reduce the chance of transmitting the virus. Vaccination is the best protection for those at risk.

To fulfill its public health mission, DOH-Orange is offering the two-dose hepatitis A vaccine at no cost to eligible adults. For more information, contact the DOH-Orange Hepatitis Prevention Program at 407-723-5054. Follow us on Twitter @GOHealthyOrange