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Demand for Hepatitis A vaccine skyrockets following Hamburger Mary's closure

Pinellas Co. runs out of free vaccine
Posted: 5:37 PM, Oct 30, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-31 08:30:41-04
Demand for Hepatitis A vaccine skyrockets

TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- People in Tampa Bay are not taking any chances. The demand for Hepatitis A vaccines is so high that one county ran out of them!

In the past five days, 543 people in Hillsborough County have taken advantage of free hepatitis shots. Pinellas County ran out of vaccines and are awaiting a new shipment. 

Hamburger Mary's worker tests positive for Hepatitis A; customers urged to get vaccinated

Many people are rushing to get the shot after health workers shut down the popular Hamburger Mary’s Restaurant in Ybor City when an employee tested positive for the virus.

Brandon resident Desmond Lewis doesn’t like to take risks when it comes to his health. That's why he and his girlfriend, who both work in the medical field, were at the Hillsborough County Health Department in Sulphur Springs Tuesday getting shots. 

“I like to help sick people, I don’t want to be sick," Lewis, who works as an EMT, explained. “It’s important to be vaccinated because one person in the house can get everyone else sick.”

“When people do get sick, they can get very sick," explained Dr. Bob Wallace who just treated a patient for Hepatitis A in St. Pete. “He was sick for 6 months," Wallace added.

The Hep A virus spreads through food and water when someone doesn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper. The number of cases is spiking across Florida and in Tampa Bay, to levels we haven’t seen in 13 years. Pinellas County has the highest number of cases in the bay area: 58. Hillsborough: 36. Pasco: 33. Statewide: More than 280. 

“We don’t need to go around allowing a virus to cause infection or even death when there’s an opportunity for us to wipe it out with vaccinations,” explained Wallace.

Wallace says if you don’t have a current Hepatitis A vaccine, now’s the time to get it. 

The two-dose shot can last more than 20 years. 

Hillsborough County still has plenty of free vaccines available, specifically for people who ate or drank at Hamburger Mary’s between October 4 – 20 and/or qualify due to being at high risk, at their Sulphur Springs clinic. Pinellas County hopes to get another shipment in soon.