Advertisement
  1. Health

Florida's surgeon general announces health advisory on hepatitis A

State Surgeon General and State Health Officer Dr. Celeste Philip announced a public health advisory on Thursday urging people to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A. The number of cases is up dramatically in Florida this year, the advisory said, with Tampa Bay and Orlando mentioned as hot spots for the virus. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Nov. 30, 2018

The Florida Department of Health has issued an advisory expressing concern about a significant increase in hepatitis A cases in Florida and across the country.

The advisory, announced Thursday by State Surgeon General and State Health Officer Dr. Celeste Philip, mentions the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas as hot spots for the virus.

It also stresses the importance of vaccination against hepatitis A, which spreads person-to-person through feces contaminated with the virus.

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have seen a handful of high-profile cases recently. Two workers at a pair of restaurants in the region were found to have the virus, prompting one restaurant to close permanently and causing the other to be placed under investigation. The cases are among a growing number of infections nationally, and part of the largest outbreak since the hepatitis A vaccine was developed nearly 20 years ago.

Since January, there have been 385 cases of hepatitis A reported in Florida, according to the health department. That's more than three times the previous five-year average of 126 cases.

Florida's case load is beginning to mirror national trends, health officials say. Other health departments across the country have been working with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention since March 2017 to ward off outbreaks.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Why are we suddenly hearing about hepatitis A outbreaks? Experts blame the opioid crisis.

Generally, fewer than 3,000 cases of hepatitis A are reported nationwide each year, according to the CDC. But that hasn't been the case recently. More than 7,000 cases have been reported from 12 states this year.

The most notable outbreak happened in San Diego, Calif., and spread to the Los Angeles, Monterey and Santa Cruz areas. The state has been battling a rise for years, but in 2017 California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency when there were more than 700 active cases of hepatitis A with more than half of those patients needing to be hospitalized. Twenty-one people have died from the outbreak.

Getting it under control was expensive — California bleached the streets in San Diego, set up mobile vaccination units and hosted hundreds of vaccination events, opening dozens of public hand-washing stations.

In the Tampa Bay area last month, the owners of a Hamburger Mary's franchise in Ybor City closed the restaurant temporarily then announced it would not reopen after a worker there tested positive for hepatitis A. Also in November, the Toasted Monkey Beach Bar & Grille on St. Pete Beach temporarily closed when one of its workers tested positive for the virus.

Public health experts say the majority of the cases come from white men in their young adult years to middle age. Most are from transient populations with limited access to sanitation methods and are more commonly drug users.

The Florida Department of Health will be reaching out with vaccinations to communities that are most at risk for the illness: people who report drug use, homeless populations and gay men. In addition, the department will be working with local jails, drug treatment centers, homeless shelters and hospitals to educate and vaccinate.

Florida health officials say hepatitis A is vaccine-preventable illness. Practicing proper hygiene, like washing hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food, is another way to ward against the virus.

Hepatitis A symptoms include fever, dark urine, yellow-tinged skin or eyes, fatigue and gastric issues. It can also cause damage to the liver, especially among those who already have liver disease.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. An opened capsule containing Kratom. The Clearwater City Council was confronted by dozens of concerned citizens at a recent meeting who urged them not to ban the herbal supplement. Times
    “Our recommendation right now is, we don’t think there’s a need to regulate it.”
  2. BayCare Health Systems now plans to build a $200 million, 60-bed hospital along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The company previously planned to build on 111 acres further north adjacent to Interstate 75 and an interchange to built at Overpass Road. Shown his the main entrance to BayCare's St. Joseph's Hospital North on Van Dyke Road in Lutz. Times
    BayCare plans a $200 million, 60-bed hospital on land it owns along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard
  3. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that two-thirds of Medicare Part D beneficiaries, or about 9 million people who don’t receive low-income subsidies, will see their monthly premium increase for next year if they stay in their current plan. To sort through your options, visit the Times' Medicare guide at tampabay.com/news/health or contact Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, a state program commonly known as SHINE. Contact them at 1-800-963-5337 or information@elderaffairs.org. MICHELE MILLER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    About 9 million people with Medicare Part D plans will see higher premiums if they don’t make a change before Dec. 7, a new study says.
  4. "Doctor" Jeremiah Corouthers, 8, puts a cast on a teddy bear with child life specialist Amanda Petryszak during the annual Doctors for a Day event in March at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. The burden of caregiving is increasingly falling on Florida families, according to an AARP report. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    There are nearly 3 million caregivers in Florida helping care for relatives, and it’s costing them time and money. But some help is on the way.
  5. Pharmacist Wendy Sullivan gives a flu shot to Luz Acevedo at the Town 'N Country Senior Center in 2012. The 2019-20 flu season is expected to be a hard one, with Hillsborough County already leading the state in outbreaks. Associated Press
    The county leads the state in flu outbreaks so far this season, prompting an official call for parents to get their kids vaccinated.
  6. An opened capsule containing Kratom. The Clearwater City Council was confronted by dozens of concerned citizens at a recent meeting who urged them not to ban the herbal supplement. Times
    “I think there was a misunderstanding."
  7. Dr. Philip Adler treated generations of Tampa children, including Hannah Millman, who was 2 years old at the time of this visit. Times (1985)
    The Tampa pediatrician also played a prominent role in desegregating local hospital care.
  8. Reginald Ferguson, center, a resident of the Kenwood Inn in St. Petersburg, talks with Rachel Ilic, an environmental epidemiologist, left, and Fannie Vaughn, right, a nurse with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. The health team was encouraging residents to get vaccinated against hepatitis A, part of a larger effort to address an outbreak of the virus in Florida. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The effort started in Pinellas, where health department “foot teams” are knocking on doors in neighborhoods at higher risk for the virus.
  9. A nurse at Tampa General Hospital holds a special stethoscope used for critical patients in the Jennifer Leigh Muma Neonatal Intensive Care Unit there. The hospital received a C grade from Leapfrog, an independent nonprofit which ranks hospitals nationally for patient safety. Times (2018)
    Leapfrog, an independent nonprofit, rated hospitals based on hand washing, infection rates, patient falls and other factors.
  10. Most of the time (55%), older spouses are caregiving alone as husbands or wives come to the end of their lives, without help from their children, other family members or friends or paid home health aides, according to research published earlier this year. [Times (2011)]
    Compared to adult children who care for their parents, spouses perform more tasks and assume greater physical and financial burdens when they become caregivers.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement