MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Brian Mast introduced the Hepatitis Exposure Prevention Act on Thursday to give people free access to the Hepatitis A vaccine.
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"If you are in an outbreak area, we want to make sure there is prevention available," Rep. Mast said at a news conference in Stuart. "It's important to make sure the vaccination is readily available."
The South Florida Republican said his legislation will make the vaccine free in communities that are designated as "high-risk" of an outbreak.
One of those areas is Martin County, where there have been 19 cases of hepatitis A and three deaths this year, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The state also declared Palm Beach County as a high-risk zone since there have been six cases in 2019.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Rep. Mast. "If you think you’re at risk, you might want to look at the vaccination."
Earlier this month, health officials said the source of the outbreak in Martin County is still unknown, and could take weeks to uncover.
"This is not something that's easily identified," Rep. Mast said Thursday, who urged residents to be patient. "Take it seriously, go out and utilize the precautions that are available."
The Florida Department of Health in Martin County recently extended its hours to give people more time to get vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with local and state health officials every day to identify the source of the outbreak.
Doctors are urging people to get vaccinated and frequently wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before preparing food.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease spread person-to-person through food, drinks, or objects contaminated by small amounts of fecal matter.