JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A student at S.P. Livingston Primary Learning Center in the College Gardens neighborhood of Northwest Jacksonville tested positive for hepatitis A, Duval County Public Schools confirmed Tuesday.
The Florida Department of Health in Duval County on Friday sent parents a letter, notifying them that the student with hepatitis A attended S.P. Livingston while sick on Jan. 27. “The student is not at school,” the letter reads.
The school district said steps were taken to identify students and staff who may have had close contact with the student, and vaccinations will be available Wednesday.
A mother told News4Jax on Tuesday that one of her sons is the one who tested positive, but she brought both of her sons to UF Health hospital. She said she first noticed her 7-year-old son wasn’t feeling well about two weeks ago.
“He was walking home from the bus stop and I noticed some yellowing in his eyes, so I immediately took him to the ER the next day,” said the mother, who wished to remain anonymous. “They ran some blood work and they came back with the liver test first and his enzymes were really high, so they were really concerned. At that point, then the hepatitis A test came back positive.”
She said she was shocked by the diagnosis, as she thought he had his hepatitis A vaccination a year ago.
“I was embarrassed to go into the ER because I didn’t think I’d be going in there for something like that, to be honest with you,” the mother said. “I do vaccinate my children, and I thought I was safe.”
Symptoms of hepatitis A can include abdominal pain, fever, nausea or vomiting and yellow skin or eyes. Symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after exposure and usually last less than two months. The health department said parents should not send their children to school if they develop those symptoms.
“My kids attend this school and I feel like their safety is first, and without their safety, there is nothing,” another parent, Tiara Jones, told News4Jax on Tuesday. “I actually got a call for my kids being in close contact with one of the students that was exposed to the hepatitis A, so luckily my kids are up to date with their immunizations.”
Hepatitis A can cause liver damage and is spread through such things as 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.
Jones said she always makes sure that her children are up-to-date with vaccinations.
“It’s something serious," she said. "You don’t want your child going through vomiting and aching and all that crazy stuff. I don’t want my child to be hurting and not feeling good and there’s nothing I can do to help.”
The mother of the 7-year-old offered a message to parents: “Double-check your shot records and not always put your trust in someone else to take care of that for you."
She added that it could be two weeks before the 7-year-old goes back to school, and he is doing OK despite feeling fatigued.
As of Jan. 25, according to the state Department of Health, there had been 142 cases of hepatitis A reported this year in Florida. Duval County led the state in the number of cases in the new year with 19.
The state had a major outbreak last year when it totaled 3,266 cases. That compares, for example, to a total of 123 cases in 2015 and 122 cases in 2016.