Florida Declares Hepatitis A Public Health Emergency

The Florida Surgeon General has declared a public health emergency to deal with an outbreak of hepatitis A in the state. State law dictates a public health emergency be declared by a state surgeon general if there’s a threat that creates “substantial injury or harm to the public”. Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said, “I am declaring this Public Health Emergency as a proactive step to appropriately alert the public to this serious illness and prevent further spread of Hepatitis A in our state.” The emergency can last 60 days unless the governor renews the declaration. 

There have been 56 new cases of Hepatitis A reported statewide in the week since the last reporting period. According to the Florida Department of Health, the number of reported Hepatitis A cases rose to 2,034 from 1,978 cases reported the week prior. That is nearly four times the 548 cases reported in all of 2018, with five months left in the year. In 2014, there were only 106 cases in the state

Most of the “critically impacted” counties are in Central and Western Florida. A critically impacted county has at least 10 cases per 100,000 people. Pasco County has reported the most cases with 358 reported, followed by Pinellas (328), Volusia (179), Orange (140), Marion (109), Brevard (64), Martin (32) and St. Lucie (30). The counties of Citrus, Glades, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Liberty, Manatee, Okeechobee, Sumter, Taylor, and Volusia are also considered critically impacted.

In his statement, Surgeon General Rivkees said, “The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination. It is important that we vaccinate as many high-risk individuals as possible in order to achieve herd immunity.” According to Rivkees, 80 percent of the high-risk population has to be vaccinated for the number of cases in Florida to start to decline. Rivkees declined to say what percentage of the state’s high-risk population is vaccinated, but did say that the state isn’t near the 80 percent threshold.