Marion County is continuing to see an increase in cases of hepatitis A locally and wants to encourage residents to get vaccinated for the virus. The Department of Health in Marion County has tracked 44 new cases of hepatitis A in the county since the start of January. In comparison, the county only saw one case of hepatitis A per year from 2015 through 2017. Both Marion and the state of Florida are seeing an increase in hepatitis A cases, mirroring national trends.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness that attacks the liver and can cause symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, dark urine, and yellow skin and eyes. It's spread when people do not wash their hands well after using the bathroom and then touch objects or prepare food for others. It's also spread through sexual contact and drug use.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. It's also important to practice good hand hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food, and to avoid sharing food, drinks, drugs or cigarettes.
The department is holding several vaccination opportunities in the weeks ahead to help residents get the immunization:
- Friday, April 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Union Baptist Church (19976 SW 110th Place, Dunnellon)
- Friday, April 5, from 4:30 to 8 p.m., at AMEX Food and Deli (125 NW 110th Ave., Ocala)
- Tuesday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Brother's Keeper Soup Kitchen (435 NW Second St., Ocala)
- Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Department of Health in Marion County (1801 SE 32nd Ave., Ocala)
The April 27 immunization opportunity at the Department of Health's Ocala office will be a drive-through vaccination clinic for ease of access. Residents can also get vaccinated at the department's Ocala location during normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
"The Florida Department of Health is increasing its vaccination efforts throughout the state to protect residents and visitors from the hepatitis A virus," said Department of Health in Marion County Health Officer Mark Lander. "Our upcoming vaccination efforts are part of many local efforts underway to provide Marion County residents with added protection against hepatitis A."
People who should be vaccinated for hepatitis A include:
- All children at age 1 year old
- People who are experiencing homelessness
- Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not
- Men who have sexual encounters with other men
- People with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
- People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- People with clotting-factor disorders
- Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common
Health care providers should immediately report all cases of hepatitis A to their local health department to ensure a quick public health intervention and prevent the spread of the disease among close contacts of the person sick with the virus.
For more information on hepatitis A, visit https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav. For more information on hepatitis A in Florida, visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/%5c/diseases-and-conditions/hepatitis-a/.