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Florida identified more than 3,300 Hepatitis A cases this year, nearly triple the number in the previous five years combined

But health officials hope the outbreak is on its way to being contained.

The Hepatitis A public health emergency has resulted in 3,327 cases identified by the Department of Health this year. The most recent week saw an additional 49 cases reported.

That’s according to the latest department numbers covering Jan. 2019 through Dec. 2019. But health officials hope the outbreak is on its way to being contained.

The 2019 figures represent a sharp climb from 2018, which saw just 548 Hepatitis A cases. That mark was also an increase from previous years. In 2017, just 276 cases were identified. The number of Hepatitis A reports failed to top 123 cases from 2014 to 2016.

In total, 1,175 cases were identified from the five-year period covering 2014 to 2018. That’s nearly one third of the cases from 2019 alone.

The contagious virus can attack the liver and is spread through consumption of contaminated food or water and from person to person. That can happen, for instance, if people don’t wash their hands adequately after going to the restroom.

Surgeon General Scott Rivkees briefed the Senate on the outbreak back in September.

“This has had a serious impact on the state of Florida,” Rivkees said. “Nearly every county in Florida has been affected by a case of Hepatitis A.”

Indeed, 58 of Florida’s 67 counties reported at least one case of Hepatitis A during this calendar year.

Pasco County was most affected by the virus in 2019. A total of 413 cases were identified in Pasco. Pinellas County was second with 377 cases, followed by Volusia with 301.

While additional cases were identified in the past week, the rate of new cases has slowed. That’s thanks in part to efforts to increase vaccinations and public awareness about the outbreak. During his September briefing, Rivkees estimated officials will need to vaccinate 80 percent of the state’s high-risk population to get a handle on the outbreak.

That “high-risk” pool is made up of the homeless and drug-addicted population.

According to a report last week, Rivkees says officials have hit about 68 percent of that population so far.

While those numbers are encouraging, Rivkees says he doesn’t have a target date for when the outbreak will cease.

“Nobody can predict,” Rivkees said.

“But all I can say is since we declared a public-health emergency, the number of new cases of hepatitis A cases that we’ve seen statewide is under half of what we were seeing before we declared a public health emergency.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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