Ocala Fire Rescue (OFR) and the Department of Health in Marion County have partnered to combat the hepatitis A outbreak affecting the community.
Due to the outbreak of the highly contagious disease – 138 people in Marion County already have been infected this year – OFR will be offering vaccinations at several locations.
The hepatitis A vaccination clinics will be free and open to the public. Clinics will be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Fire Station 3 (737 SW Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue) and Fire Station 7 (885 SE 31st St.). Vaccinations will be administered on Wednesdays from 7–10 a.m. and from 3–6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Due to the high occurrence of reported hepatitis A cases this year – not only in Marion County but in Florida as well – OFR and the health department recommend that people with high risk for contracting the virus get vaccinated. High-risk populations include, but are not limited to, anyone coming into direct contact with others who have the virus, anyone using or working with individuals who use illicit drugs and those experiencing homelessness.
Although hepatitis A can be spread through sexual contact, it is most commonly acquired when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from a contaminated surface containing traces of infected fecal matter. The best way to prevent the spread of hepatitis A is through vaccination, followed by good hygiene practices. Washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before preparing or eating food, and after using the restroom, changing a diaper, coughing or sneezing, are ways in which you can prevent the spread of the hepatitis A virus.
“The hepatitis A virus can live on surfaces for more than 30 days and is immune to alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” said OFR Capt. Jesse Blaire. “If those facts aren’t scary enough to make you want to run to a vaccination clinic, I hope that the idea of getting immunized to keep your loved ones safe from this vaccine-preventable virus is.”