83ºF

Hepatitis A cases continue to climb in Florida

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)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida had 56 new hepatitis A cases reported last week, bringing the total number of cases this year to 2,904 as of Oct. 26, according to the state Department of Health.

Brevard and Volusia led the state in the number of newly reported cases last week, with 11 each, a News Service of Florida analysis of the data shows. That brought the number of hepatitis A cases in Volusia County to 262 and Brevard County to 131.

Citrus and Lake counties also each reported eight new cases of hepatitis A last week, bringing the total number of cases in Lake County to 147 and the total number of cases in Citrus County to 84.

Hepatitis A, which can cause liver damage, can be spread through sexual contact and through fecal matter. That can include transmission by people not properly washing their hands after going to the bathroom and contaminating food or drinks.

Health officials have urged people to get vaccinated against the disease and Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees has directed $3 million in additional funding to county health departments to help with the state's vaccine efforts.

Rivkees, who doubles as the state surgeon general, told lawmakers last month that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that 80 percent of the at-risk population, which includes homeless individuals and drug users, be vaccinated. Rivkees said that would translate to about 392,000 people in Florida.

According to the latest available data, a total of 259,232 vaccines have been administered in Florida this year. That figure, however, includes all Floridians, not just those who are considered "at risk."