Florida Celebrates National Hepatitis Awareness Month
Hepatitis Awareness Month
The Florida Department of Health celebrates the first day of National Hepatitis Awareness Month with Hepatitis Day at the Capitol.
The purpose of the event is to promote hepatitis awareness and education, as well as encourage hepatitis testing, vaccination and prevention methods.
Hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States. Symptoms of hepatitis, if they are present, include nausea, fever, weakness, loss of appetite and jaundice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance on an initiative to eliminate hepatitis B in the United States.
"The Bureau of Immunization and the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Hepatitis Prevention Program are working together to provide over 17,000 additional doses of hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine to at-risk adults," DOH Deputy State Health Officer Bonita Sorensen M.D., M.B.A. said. "Public health in Florida has already done a commendable job of significantly reducing hepatitis B in infants, children and adolescents. Here is our opportunity to do the same for adults who are at risk."
Most county health departments throughout Florida offer free hepatitis vaccine and testing to adults at risk. During Hepatitis Awareness Day at the Capitol, the Leon County Health Department provided free hepatitis B and free hepatitis A (HAV) vaccines to adults. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C (HCV).
Almost four million Americans and more than 300,000 Floridians are infected with the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is referred to as the 'silent epidemic' because most people are unaware they are infected due to a lack of symptoms. The disease often lies undetected for 20-30 years and is a leading cause of liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
Hepatitis C is usually spread through contact with blood containing the virus. All individuals infected with HCV should be vaccinated for HAV and HBV, as both viruses can cause further liver damage. Hepatitis A is transmitted by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with human waste (feces). Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person.