Marion County pushing vaccinations after alarming rise in hepatitis A cases

Mark Lander

Marion County has seen 54 cases of hepatitis A since the beginning of January and health officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated for the virus.

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 of Health in Marion County will be providing a drive-through vaccination clinic on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its office in Ocala, located at 1801 SE 32nd Ave. Residents also can get vaccinated at that 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.

People who should be vaccinated for hepatitis A include:

  • All children at age one years old;
  • People who are homeless;
  • 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; and
  • 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, click HERE.

The Florida Department of Health, which is nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts. For more information, visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.