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16 confirmed cases of Hep A in Martin, 6 cases in Palm Beach

Hepatitis A Outbreak

16 confirmed cases of Hep A in Martin, 6 cases in Palm Beach

Martin County, Fl- Another new case of Hepatitis A in Martin County, bringing the total up to 16 confirmed cases for 2019. That’s the highest number of confirmed cases in one calendar year since the health department began tracking the virus in the late 1990’s.

Martin County remains under high risk as the number of confirmed cases of hepatitis A continues to climb. The health department says there are now 16 confirmed cases since the first of the year. The contagious liver disease turned deadly in Palm City last month. Jeff and Nancy Kirsch were found dead inside their Sunset Trace home due to complications related to hepatitis A. The health department is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene. Health officials are not saying where the cases have been diagnosed as it investigates a connection or possible link. The symptoms are similar to the flu, meaning you should immediately seek medical attention to be safe.

It has been reported that Palm Beach County has 6 confirmed cases.

According to the CDC Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Antibodies produced in response to hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.

How is hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.

Contamination of food (this can include frozen and undercooked food) by hepatitis A can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking. Contamination of food or water is more likely to occur in countries where hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene.

Symptoms are

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Most children younger than age 6 do not have symptoms when they have hepatitis A. When symptoms are present, young children typically do not have jaundice but most older children and adults with hepatitis A have jaundice.

How soon after exposure to hepatitis A will symptoms appear?

If symptoms occur, they usually start appearing 4 weeks after exposure, but can occur as early as 2 and as late as 7 weeks after exposure. Symptoms usually develop over a period of several days.

According to Renay Rouse from  Florida Department of Health in Martin County the investigation into the possible modes of transmission for Hepatitis A in Martin County continues.

She said the Health Department is utilizing local, regional and state resources in this investigation. An investigation includes interviews with confirmed cases to gather lifestyle information, including food histories, that can help to pinpoint common links.

Currently, Martin County has 16 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A. There have been more than 1,200 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A statewide. The Florida Department of Health considers a community “high risk” when the confirmed number of cases reaches 5. Martin County reached high risk status with 5 confirmed cases as of Monday, April 1.

What should Martin County residents do?

  • Seek medical attention if any person experiences symptoms of illness.
  • Contact a healthcare provider or primary care physician with questions or concerns. Underlying health problems such as existing liver disease or clotting-factor disorders can make you more likely to get sick from hepatitis A.
  • Visit www.martincountyhealth.com for detailed information and printable resources.
  • Exercise good hygiene – hand-washing for a minimum of 20 seconds, after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.
  • Vaccinate. The Hepatitis A vaccine is available in the community via health care providers and local pharmacies. Vaccine supply is arriving daily in the county.
  • The Hepatitis A vaccine became part of the standard vaccine series for children in 1995. If parents have questions about their child’s vaccination status, they should contact their child’s pediatrician.
  • To ensure adequate access to the vaccine, the Florida Department of Health in Martin County will provide the Hepatitis A vaccine to those who are uninsured or underinsured. For an appointment, call 772-221-4000, then press 2 for Immunizations.

Cost of Hep A vaccine. Check with your insurance provider to see if you are covered.

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