Daytona Beach, FL - The state of Florida is seeing a serious increase in the number of Hepatitis A cases reported even though the illness is easily preventable. Volusia County Health Department Communications Manager Holly Smith said the disease is easily transmitted by the fecal-oral method and washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds will go along way toward preventing the disease. She said not washing your hands properly is the easiest way to spread Hepatitis A.
An almost sure way to prevent Hepatitis A is vaccination. Smith said that the vaccination is available at all three Health Department locations in Volusia County, at many local pharmacies or ask your personal physician. There is some confusion about the different strains of Hepatitis. The "A" strain is a one-time thing. Smith said that the federal Center for Disease Control reports that if you get the "A" strain, you will not get it again.
The vaccination is given as two shots six months apart and is available through the department of health at no cost to those in the three high-risk groups. For others, the cost of the shot without insurance is $62.50. If a person demonstrates financial need, the vaccine is provided on a sliding scale, Smith said.
Smith said there seem to be three main groups of people contracting Hepatitis A. They are people who use street drugs, i-v or otherwise, people who are currently or recently homeless and people that have been incarcerated. Hepatitis A symptoms include what feels like a really bad stomach flu such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, fatigue, and fever. A telltale sign is liver jaundice which is where your skin and eyes turn yellow. Smith warns though, that everyone does not exhibit all symptoms and some people don't show any signs.
Volusia County has 141 cases reported as of June 29, making it number three in the state. Only Pinellas and Pasco counties have more. Locally, Flagler County has only reported three cases this year.
For more information on the Florida Hepatitis A outbreak, visit the website.