U. of Miami – Hepatitis A, a contagious viral infection of the liver often spread through people to people contact or through the consumption of contaminated food or water, is on the rise in Florida, with more than 700 cases reported this year.
That number already exceeds the 549 total cases reported in the Sunshine State in 2018, which saw a near doubling of the cases reported in 2017.
The number of reported cases between 2016 and 2017 more than doubled, jumping from 122 to 276.
Florida health officials have not determined the cause of the outbreaks, which were concentrated in Central Florida, but began making their way from Martin and Palm Beach counties to Broward County last week.
But the uptick in Florida reflects a national trend that the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified in 15 states in 2016, primarily among people who used drugs or were homeless.
“Hepatitis A usually involves ingesting something contaminated with the feces of an infected person.”
Since then, the CDC reported, there have been more than 15,000 cases, 8,500 hospitalizations, and 140 deaths across the nation linked to hepatitis A, which is preventable by vaccination. In fact, since the hepatitis A vaccine was introduced in 1996, the number of new cases has dropped dramatically—by 95 percent.
John M. Clochesy, vice dean and professor at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, discusses hepatitis A.
How is hepatitis A transmitted and what are the symptoms?
Hepatitis A usually involves ingesting something contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Vaccination and good hand washing, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food, are important to decreasing the risk of hepatitis A. The symptoms for adults include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, which are usually resolved within two months of infection. Children under 6 usually do not have symptoms.
So far, Florida health officials report that three people in Florida have died from hepatitis A this year. Is that common? Don’t most people recover from it?
Most people do recover from hepatitis A. Those who develop complications from hepatitis A often have other health conditions.
Who should get the vaccine?
Those with chronic liver conditions, those whose immune systems are compromised or are traveling to developing countries, men who have sex with men, and those using street drugs should get the hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination for both hepatitis A and B is recommended for children.
What’s the difference between hepatitis A, B, and C?
While Hepatitis A, B, and C are all viral infections of the liver, hepatitis A causes a serious infection that usually resolves on its own within two months. Hepatitis B and C, on the other hand, commonly result in chronic infection of the liver and increase a person’s risk of developing cancer of the liver.
Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through blood and body fluids. There is also a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B and there is now an effective treatment for hepatitis C. Source: University of Miami News
Florida Hepatitis A Increase: Is It Due to The Influx of Immigrants?
HEADLINE HEALTH – Hepatitis A was on the decline in the U.S. for many years. Now it’s rising sharply, including a quadrupling of the number of cases in Florida in just two years.
According to a report provided by the Pew Research Center in November 2018, there were 10.7 million “unauthorized immigrants” [illegal aliens] in the U.S. in 2016.
So far, public health officials have not come right out and blamed immigrants directly for the crisis.
But there are clear links between the rise of immigration and the spike in potentially deadly Hepatitis A. Here’s what we’ve found from leading government and healthcare institutions:
- “Mobile working poor persons [that is, migrant labor] may be at increased risk for hepatitis A due to lack of access to appropriate water and sanitation facilities while traveling, and substandard housing situations. In addition, hepatitis A is endemic to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, and history of exposure is much more common in those countries than in the U.S.” – Migrant Clinicians Network
- “An increased number of hepatitis A cases among refugees, asylum seekers and migrants residing in hosting facilities in Greece were recorded between April and December 2016.” – National Institutes of Health
- “Aetna considers hepatitis A vaccine a medically necessary preventive service according to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control … for the following at-risk groups [partial list]: Homosexual and bisexual men; Migrant Hispanics; Travelers to areas where hepatitis A is endemic … ” Aetna Hepatitis A Vaccine information page
- “This mass migration of individuals from areas of high-prevalence of viral hepatitis poses a unique challenge to the healthcare systems of the host nations.” – Journal of Hepatology, Immigration and viral hepatitis
- “The current system of providing healthcare to asylum seekers and migrants is failing, resulting in unnecessary prevalence of liver disease, infection with hepatitis viruses and alcohol abuse … Some liver diseases, particularly Hepatitis A, are often acquired en-route during migration or after migration to host countries … ” – European Association for the Study of the Liver, Liver Disease and Migrant Health Policy Statement