The Department of Health has identified 32 new cases of Hepatitis A in 2020 as the state continues to battle an outbreak of the disease.
However, health officials have said there are signs the outbreak is on its way to being contained. For one, the rate of new cases has slowed. That’s thanks in part to efforts to increase vaccinations and public awareness about the outbreak.
During a briefing given to the Senate in September, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees estimated officials will need to vaccinate 80% of the state’s high-risk population to get a handle on the outbreak.
According to a December report, Rivkees said officials have hit about 68% of that population so far. The “high-risk” pool is made up of the homeless and drug-addicted population.
During 2019, at least 58 of Florida’s 67 counties reported at least one case of Hepatitis A.
Of the 32 cases reported in 2020, Duval County led the state with five new cases. That was followed by Polk County with four new cases. Two new cases each were reported in Brevard, Marion, Santa Rosa, Sarasota and Seminole counties.
The contagious virus can attack the liver and is spread through the 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.
Last year’s number of 3,396 Hepatitis A reports represented a huge spike in reported cases. The 2019 numbers were a jump from the 548 cases reported in 2018. 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.
That leap led to the outbreak being designated a public health emergency.
While the growth rate of new cases has dipped, Rivkees has not set a target date for when the outbreak could cease.