Hepatitis A infections are on the rise in Florida and the solution to stopping the outbreak could be as simple as washing your hands. Despite giving out 6,900 free hepatitis A vaccines last week, the state saw its biggest increase in new cases.
The Florida Department of Health reported an additional 92 cases of the contagious liver disease during the week ending May 11. That's the highest number of cases reported since the outbreak began in 2018. Hepatitis A is caused by a contagious virus that affects the liver and is most commonly spread through contact with fecal matter. It can also be spread through sexual intercourse.
“Well hepatitis is a very highly contagious disease that’s passed through what they call the fecal oral group meaning any kind of food that might be contaminated with the feces of somebody who is infected with Hepatitis A, that happens to get into somebodies’ mouth. That can spread the disease,” says Leon County Health Department Spokesman Chris Tittel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes previous outbreaks to foodborne issues. However, this recent outbreak is due mainly to cleanliness. Florida and the state Department of Health is telling people to get vaccinated and wash their hands.
“To make sure that you have eliminated any possibility or at least minimize any chance that fecal matter will actually get into or on food or on objects. So vaccination is key, washing hands is also very important to preventing the spread of this disease," says Tittel.
According to the Florida Department of Health, reported cases of Hepatitis A have doubled each year for the past three years. 1,677 cases have been reported in the past year.