Florida surgeon general declares Hepatitis A public health emergency

2,034 cases of Hepatitis A reported since start of year

CDC via CNN

A microscopic image of the Hepatitis A virus, taken by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ORLANDO, Fla. - A public health emergency has been declared in Florida to help deal with a rise in Hepatitis A cases.

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees declared the emergency Thursday to alert the public about the seriousness of the illness and to allow greater testing and treatment.

There have been 2,034 cases of Hepatitis A in Florida since the beginning of the year. By comparison, there were 548 cases last year and 276 cases in 2017.

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that infects the liver and it's spread through the feces of those who are infected. It is often spread when infected people don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom since the feces can be transferred to food, drinks and objects.

The illness' spread can be prevented through vaccination.

Certain people are more at risk for infection than others but anyone can get a vaccine just in case. People at increased risk include:

•    All children at age 1 year 
•    People who are experiencing homelessness 
•    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 
•    Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common

The disease is most commonly transmitted through the fecal-oral route, officials said. Symptoms include:

•    Jaundice (yellowing skin and whites of eyes) 
•    Fever 
•    Diarrhea 
•    Fatigue
•    Loss of appetite 
•    Nausea and vomiting 
•    Stomach pain 
•    Dark-colored urine 
•    Pale or clay-colored stool 

For more information about hepatitis A cases in Florida, click here.

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