Now might be a good time to ask your doctor if you are current on your vaccinations because cases of a rare but highly contagious viral disease are on the rise in Florida - and some people are even dying from it. 

Officials from the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee and Martin County recently joined with other state officials to address the outbreak of the virus, Hepatitis-A, across the county and state. Martin County has seen 19 cases of the rare liver disease in the past 2 months: 14 of those people have been hospitalized with severe reactions of abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and vomiting - 3 people have even died from complications from the disease.

A recent death in Vermont is suspected to be a result of possible contact with a Martin County resident and the recent Hep-A outbreak. Officials have begun investigations to try and figure out what all is causing this sudden outbreak in Florida and across the nation - as well as if the death of the Vermont individual is from contact with someone infected in Martin County.

From January 2018 to now, a total of 1,293 cases of Hep-A were reported across the entire state of Florida - Hep-A generally sees fewer than 1000 cases per year. With Florida being the 3rd largest state and the recent rise of support for the anti-vax movement, as well as other health trends across the nation, the Florida Department of Health confirms that the rise of support for current national health trends is on par with the data for the rise of these outbreaks. This information was confirmed from the FDH's close working relationship with the Centers for Disease Control on past outbreaks.

Hepatitis-A is passed through contact with an infected person's feces; it's most commonly passed from one person to another through contaminated foods and water, poor handwashing after using the restroom and close sexual contact with fecal matter. Hep-A is preventable with vaccine though, and while it generally isn't lethal, it can cause long term liver damage and take months to years to treat. The recent outbreak confirms how possible death is with this highly contagious viral disease. 

The Florida Department of Health highly suggests getting your vaccines to protect yourself from the disease, as well as making sure you're properly washing your hands after using the restroom and practicing safe sex. Symptoms of Hepatitis-A include fever, jaundice (yellowed skin and eyes), tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, diarrhea, and gray clay-colored stool.

If you believe you have Hep-A, visit a healthcare provider for an evaluation. To read more about the statement released and the Hep-A outbreak, check the Florida Department of Health's website here.

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