As hepatits A cases statewide climb to more than 2,000, with multiple deaths in the mix, State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees has issued a Public Health Emergency for the state.
The Florida Department of Health said this declaration builds upon the Public Health Advisory that it issued in November 2018.
“Not only are we seeing new cases, but we’re seeing cases pop up in areas where we didn’t expect them to,” said State Rep. Toby Overdorf.
This Public Health Emergency designation opens up more resources for combating the spread of the virus.
“Really making sure people and the public are aware this is a serious issue,” Overdorf explained.
That includes continuing efforts that support education and prevention for both the high risk and non-high risk populations.
“I’m just really excited that we finally have taken that step to say we have an emergency, we’re going to be dealing with this, we’re dedicating the resources,” Overdorf said.
The Florida Department of Health will also continue working with the CDC as part of this Public Health Emergency.
Overdorf said he met with Dr. Rivkees last week. “He basically let me know the CDC has reviewed all the cases, he has personally reviewed all of the cases associated with our region and all the fatalities as well,” Overdorf said.
The FDOH said the declaration signals to health care providers the importance of screening and vaccination for all individuals considered high risk, but also recommends vaccination for individuals who are at a heightened risk for suffering serious complications from contracting hepatitis A.
The state said there are currently 17 counties critically impacted by the virus: Brevard, Citrus, Glades, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Liberty, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Sumpter, Taylor and Volusia.
Hepatitis A counts for 2019 already surpass those in 2018.
State health officials also use this Public Health Emergency to remind all individuals to use good hand washing practices, and emphasizes the importance for consistent sanitation procedures for public and private facilities with restrooms and showers.
Overdorf hopes this Public Health Emergency starts slowing the spread of the virus quickly.
“We are going to get to where we’re not seeing new cases at some point soon,” said Overdorf.