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The Hepatitis A Outbreak

Here’s what you need to know

Close up of person washing hands in sink with soap suds as preventative measuresThree people have died in Martin County since March 28 after being infected with Hepatitis A.

There have been 19 cases in all in the area as of this writing and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) any area where there are five or more confirmed cases are considered to be ‘high risk”. Cases of Hepatitis A within the state of Florida have surpassed other years, although it is only April, with a record 800+ to date. Here are the facts about the virus and what you need to know:

What is Hepatitis A and how is it spread?

Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that infects the liver and can lead to serious liver damage.

It is spread through feces of an infected person—when someone who has Hep A doesn’t properly wash their hands after using the bathroom, the feces can be transferred to objects which are then touched by others. Those who touch these objects become infected by unknowingly swallowing the virus.

Who is most at risk for Hepatitis A?

Although anyone can become infected with the virus, there are certain groups that are more at risk including:

  • People who use injection and non-injection drugs
  • People with chronic liver conditions including cirrhosis, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
  • People with unstable housing conditions and the homeless
  • Men who have sexual intercourse with men
  • People who are or were recently incarcerated 

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Some people who are infected with Hep A experience mild symptoms while others may have a more severe reaction to the virus. Symptoms can last only a few weeks or linger for months. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor to be tested.

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Intense itching

How to prevent becoming infected

The Department of Health in Martin County has been investigating the cases and coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control to help stop the spread of the illness. They are urging everyone to get vaccinated and there are vaccines available at doctor’s offices, local pharmacies and the Department of Health. The Department of Health is offering free vaccines to those who are underinsured and uninsured. The vaccine is administered in two doses spaced 6 months apart. Children born after 1995 should have been vaccinated as part of their schedule vaccinations if you are unsure it is advised that you contact your child’s pediatrician. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands after using the bathroom and after you’ve been out and about. Peel and wash all fresh vegetables thoroughly and stay away from raw or undercooked meats and fish.

For more information about health-related topics and medical waste disposal, please visit our blog often. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated company in Stuart, Florida.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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