State issues health advisory urging hepatitis A vaccinations

Spike in Hep A cases seen in Tampa Bay, Orlando areas

A microscopic image of the Hepatitis Avirus, taken by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A microscopic image of the Hepatitis Avirus, taken by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC via CNN)

Floridians who haven't gotten vaccinated for hepatitis A are being urged to do so now by state health officials.

The Florida Department of Health is handling an uptick in reported infections and issued a healthy advisory.

Since January, 385 cases have been reported statewide -- three times higher than a five-year average of 126 cases. 

The spike has mainly been seen in the Tampa Bay and Orlando metropolitan areas, officials said.

Just last month, 86 cases were reported. 

Officials said 68 percent of recent cases were among males with a median age of 37 years. The highest rates of disease are among patients 30-49 years old.

Common risk factors include injection and non-injection drug use, homelessness and men having sex with men, health officials said.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver. It is transmitted person-to-person with exposure included but not limited to some types of sexual contact and poor hand hygiene after going to the bathroom or changing diapers.

While most patients with HAV infections will fully recover, 77 percent of recent cases in Florida have required hospitalization, officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the following persons be vaccinated against HAV:

  • All children at age 1 year
  • Persons who are at increased risk for infection
  • Persons who are at increased risk for complications from HAV
  • Users of injection and non-injection drugs
  • Persons who are homeless
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Persons who have chronic liver disease
  • Persons traveling to or working in countries that have high or intermediate endemicity of HAV
  • Persons who have clotting-factor disorders
  • Household members and other close personal contacts of adopted children newly arriving from countries with high or intermediate HAV endemicity
  • Persons having direct contact with persons who have HAV

Health care providers are also reminded to immediately report all cases of hepatitis A to your county health department to ensure a prompt public health response in order to prevent disease among close contacts. 

About the Author: