While all attention has been on the COVID-19 pandemic this year, in which Florida has reported more than 61,000 cases and nearly 2700 deaths, the hepatitis A outbreak in the state that began in 2018 continues.
Hepatitis A activity decreased from last month and was similar to the previous 5-year average for the first time since May 2018. 81 cases were reported in May.
The Florida Department of Health has reported 605 hepatitis A cases during the first five months of the year. From January 1, 2018 through May 30, 2020, 4,561 hepatitis A cases were reported.
In 2020, Duval County has seen the most cases with 138, followed by Volusia (58), Brevard (45) and St. Johns (29).
Health officials say the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting health care seeking behavior, which may be impacting the diagnosis and reporting of hepatitis A cases.
Nationally, since the outbreaks were first identified in 2016, 32,650 total cases have been reported including 325 deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection.
The following groups are at highest risk for acquiring HAV infection or developing serious complications from HAV infection in these outbreaks and should be offered the hepatitis A vaccine in order to prevent or control an outbreak:
- People who use drugs (injection or non-injection)
- People experiencing unstable housing or homelessness
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- People who are currently or were recently incarcerated
- People with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C