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St. Lucie County responds to World Hepatitis Day

Posted at 7:33 PM, Jul 26, 2019

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health reports Hepatitis A cases have more than tripled from 2018 (548 cases) to 2019 (1,978 cases as of July 20).

In recognition of World Hepatitis Day, the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County offered free Hepatitis A testing. The first-time offering targeted a population proving difficult to reach.

63-year-old Aida Collazo and her 38-year-old son, Miguel were one of the dozens to receive a free Hep A vaccination on Friday morning.

“It’s a blessing,” said Collazo. ”People are dying because of Hepatitis A.”

But in a county with 26 confirmed cases of Hep A officials say there are more people like them who aren’t being tested because of fear, cost and miseducation. Especially among at-risk populations.

”If you work in high-risk areas - nursing or a rehab facility you’re at high risk. If you’re using the public restroom you’re at high risk,” said Kadian Nugent, a registered nurse within the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County.

She says at-risk populations in the county include the homeless, illegal drug users and transients.

Friday’s free testing for Hep A was in line with the 2019 theme for World Hepatitis Day entitled “Find the Missing Millions” which aims to reach infected individuals who don’t know they have it.

”World Hepatitis is prime opportunity for us to ensure that our community is educated, vaccinated and taught proper sanitation,” said Arlease Hall, community relations director, and public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County. “We’ve also done outreach clinics.”

Throughout the remainder of the year, Hall says the department will continue to send epidemiologists throughout the county to reach the public. The department also hopes to provide first-time recipients with a second Hep A shot in six-months free of cost.