Hepatitis A cases increased in December compared to the prior month, state data shows

Florida's surgeon general
Florida's new surgeon general. Credit: University of Florida

Florida saw a 16 percent increase in hepatitis A cases in December compared to the prior month, according to the Florida Department of Health.

There were 239 cases of the infectious liver disease reported in December, up from 206 cases in November, the data shows.

Florida finished 2019 with 3,408 hepatitis A cases, more than a six-fold increase over 2018, when 548 cases were reported, the data shows.

Florida has recorded 58 deaths from hepatitis A since January 2018, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control Prevention. It’s the second highest total in the nation, following Kentucky’s 61 disease-related deaths, the federal data shows.

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees declared a public health emergency in August as part of the hepatitis A outbreak. And state and local health officials have stepped up prevention efforts, including identifying at-risk populations and providing vaccinations, which is the most effective way to combat the disease.

In 2019, county health departments as well as other medical providers have administered more than 302,000 vaccinations through Dec. 28, the data shows.

In 2019, Florida averaged 284 hepatitis A cases a month, from a high of 383 cases in May to a low of 198 cases last January, the data shows.

The disease outbreak in 2019 has been particularly prevalent in Central Florida counties.

Through Dec. 28, Pasco County reported the most cases in 2019, with 414. Other counties with major outbreaks included: Pinellas (377), Volusia (310), Orange (196), Brevard (168), Hillsborough (167) and Lake (158), the data shows.

Hepatitis A can be contracted from person-to-person contact or indirectly if someone ingests fecal matter infected with the virus, state health officials say.

In addition to vaccinations, the disease can be prevented through diligent hand-washing, particularly after using the bathroom, changing diapers or before preparing food, health officials say.

Here is a prior Florida Phoenix story on the hepatitis A outbreak.