SEBRING — After years of declining cases, hepatitis is on the rise, mainly because of isolated outbreaks. Officials at the Florida Department of Health in Highlands County want residents to be aware Florida cases of the virus is on the rise. Highlands County has seen no activity so far but the best defense is a strong offense.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to protect yourself from the potentially serious virus is to be vaccinated. The body creates antibodies against the virus that prevents re-infection.
The health department has taken aim to prevent any outbreaks. They have come up with free hepatitis A vaccines for those at risk or those who feel they are in need of one. The free vaccine will be dispensed from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Jan. 16 at the health department in Sebring at 7205 S. George Blvd.
The World Health Organization says hepatitis A is a virus that attacks the liver. The disease runs its course and can be mild to severe with only a small amount of victims having permanent liver damage or who become chronic, according to WHO.
Risk factors include working in a child care center, living with an infected person, and traveling to areas that have a high amount concentrations, as well as others.
It is transmitted in a few different ways:
• Fecal-oral route from contaminated food and water
• Person to person, close contact
• Sex with someone who is infected
• Eating foods and shellfish that were in contaminated water
In June 2018, an outbreak occurred among drug users who use needles.
The Mayo Clinic website gives some of the symptoms as fatigue, sudden nausea and vomiting, right side abdominal pain, low fever, dark urine, loss of appetite and more. For a complete list of symptoms, visit mayoclinic.org.
The CDC’s 2017 statistics have not been published yet. However, the reports show that in 2014 there were 90 reported cases in Florida; in 2015 cases increased to 108; in 2016, the most recent available, 115 cases were reported.
For more information on hepatitis A, visit the CDC at cdc.gov or the WHO at who.int.