Hepatitis A causing health emergency in Florida, thousands still need vaccinations

A health emergency rampant in Florida because of hepatitis A.

So far this year, Collier County has reported eight cases, Charlotte County has seen 19 but Lee County is way ahead of the others with 72 cases. That is more than triple the cases for all of last year.

Map of hepatitis A in Florida (Florida Surgeon General)

The state’s Surgeon General says we’ve got a way to go before we’re in the clear.

“It was hard having that hope everyday and then he’s gone,” said Shari Roberts. She lost her brother to hepatitis A earlier this year in Central Florida; one of the hardest hit areas in an outbreak that began in 2018. He was a father to four boys, the oldest just 15-years-old.

“I can’t get that time back; none of us can,” said Roberts.

Shari Roberts’ brother, lost to hepatitis A (WINK News)

Now, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees tells state leaders thousands of Floridians still need to get vaccinated to stop the spread.

“This public health emergency applies to the entire state,” he said.

This week, he addressed other leaders saying 40 people have died in the state because of the virus.

Even if you do survive, the cost could kill your savings.

“The average cost of a hospitalization is about $77,000,” said Rivkees. “Collectively, we’ve had about $180 million in estimated hospital charges due to this outbreak.”

The virus attacks your liver and spreads through contaminated food or water from person to person. However, Rivkees stresses, “We are currently unaware of any situations where hepatitis A has been transmitted from a food worker to a patron in the State of Florida.”

Drug addicts and homeless people make up the highest risk group.

Rivkees says there are nearly half a million people in the group in the state, and nearly 400,000 need to be vaccinated to help keep the virus in check.

Roberts says everyone should take steps to protect themselves right now. “Anybody who can see this and go get their shot, if one person’s life can be saved, it’s worth it.”

County health departments offer free and/or reduced price vaccines to people who don’t have insurance or anyone who is under-insured.

To learn where you can get vaccinated, click here.

Writer:Briana Harvath
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