State working with CDC to tackle hepatitis A outbreak

The Florida Department of Health is working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address a hepatitis A outbreak and hopes the "partnership" will help expand vaccinations, state officials said Wednesday.

The department issued a news release about the effort but did not detail how the agencies would work together on what Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez described as increasing "our vaccination outreach."

The state reported 1,718 cases of hepatitis A between Jan. 1 and June 29. Despite efforts to promote vaccinations, the state reported 346 cases between May 31 and June 29. Public health officials say vaccinations are the cornerstone in controlling the outbreak.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection, with effects ranging from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. According to the CDC website, hepatitis A usually spreads when a person ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of feces from an infected person.

State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who serves as secretary of the Department of Health, and Nunez announced the partnership with the CDC in the news release. 

"We will use every tool at our disposal to stop the spread of hepatitis A in Florida, and I welcome the partnership and collaboration with our federal partners at the CDC to assist in this important mission.," Rivkees said in a prepared statement. "We will work together to take bold, innovative steps to drastically increase outreach and vaccination to protect the people of Florida."