The Department of Health in Marion County is offering free hepatitis A vaccinations to area residents Monday-Friday during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) through August 30, at the department's Ocala location or at Mobile Health Unit stops throughout the county.
There has been an outbreak of hepatitis A in our state, and Marion County is sixth in the state for the number of hepatitis A cases that we have seen. Vaccination is the best form of prevention for this virus, so to help fight the spread of hepatitis A, we are encouraging people who are at risk and anyone who would want to be protected from hepatitis A to get the hepatitis A vaccination.
What is hepatitis A, and how is it spread?
Hepatitis A is caused by a contagious virus that infects the liver, and it can lead to serious liver problems. The virus spreads through the feces of people who have the virus. If a person with the virus doesn't wash his or her hands well after going to the bathroom, feces can transfer to objects, food, drinks or drugs. When these objects, food, drinks or drugs are then shared or touched by others, other people can unknowingly swallow the virus. If a person who has the virus comes into close contact with others (like during sex), the virus can also spread.
People most at risk for the spread of hepatitis A include:
- Individuals in direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- People who use drugs (whether injection or non-injection)
- Individuals experiencing homelessness or unstable housing
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Household members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common
Someone can have hepatitis A for up to two weeks without feeling sick but during that time be spreading the virus to others. Symptoms typically start two to six weeks after infection and last fewer than two months. However, symptoms can last for up to six months. Symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin/eyes)
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
Get the hepatitis A vaccine and wash your hands regularly to stop the spread of the virus. In particular, be sure to wash your hands before you prepare food or work with food that isn't already packaged, and after you you use the bathroom, touch people or public surfaces or change a diaper.
For more information on Hepatitis A
Call the Department of Health's toll-free information Line, 1-844-CALL-DOH (1-844-225-5364), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email HepA@flhealth.gov. You can also find out more information about hepatitis A by visiting floridahealth.gov/HepA.