In addition to hurricanes, gators and Mar-A-Lago, Floridians have something else to be wary of: Hepatitis A. Yesterday the Florida Department of Health issued an advisory warning Floridians about the dangers of Hep A.
Unlike Hepatitis C —which doctors can cure with medication — Hepatitis A has no cure, although most people do recover. FDH reports, however, that of the Floridians diagnosed with HAV this year, 77% have been hospitalized. Symptoms include fatigue, the rapid onset of nausea and/or vomiting, jaundice, pain in your liver (that's be on the upper right side of your abdominal cavity, under your ribs), pain in your joints, itching, darker than usual urine and bowl movements the color of clay. So, good times.
You can get a vaccination for Hep A (this writer did, with no ill effects). The vaccination involves two shots, given six months apart, and, according to Dr. Kenneth Alexander of Orlando's Nemours Children's Hospital, even only one of the two shots can have a 95% efficacy rate.
Those at risk for Hepatitis A include, according to the advisory (download the PDF of state full advisory here), the following populations:
- Kids over the age of one
- People who have a high risk of infection
- Anyone who has an increased risk for complications from Hepatitis A
- People who use both injectable and non-injectable drugs
- Homeless people
- Men who have sex with men
- People with chronic liver disease (that'd be Hepatitis B or C)
- People traveling to or living in countries with high rates of Hepatitis A
- People with clotting-factor disorders
- People who live with or have other personal contact of adopted children from any country with a high or medium-high rate of Hepatitis A
- People who have contact with people who have Hepatitis A
Since January, Florida's had 385 reported cases of HAV, which is about three times the state's five-year average of 126 cases.
Good news, though: Once you have (and recover from) Hep A, you can't get it again — you're immune to the disease. But, uh, those symptoms sound like no fun whatsoever.