NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Florida hepatitis A cases have already tripled since last year

Hepatitis A outbreak continues
Posted at 10:31 PM, Jul 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-04 23:20:32-04

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- A Manatee County mother is living a nightmare. Her son was recently diagnosed with hepatitis A and is fighting for his life.

Jesse Raffensberger, 21, was admitted to Manatee Memorial Hospital on Monday after contracting hepatitis A.

“The waiting game is just killing me I don’t know what to do,” Renee Hall told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska.

Hall said her son got sick on Saturday. She said his symptoms began with a headache and then he began throwing up.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about hepatitis A in the Tampa Bay area

In a matter of days, he became violently ill and was rushed to the other hospital.

“An active 21-year-old kid is laid up lethargic and waiting for somebody to tell me something is going to get better and it doesn’t look like it his numbers are still not improving,” Hall said. “He has acute liver failure, and really all they can do at this point is to treat the symptoms. They are giving him platelets to replace what his kidneys can’t produce right now, and really that’s all the help we can get right now.”

Hall said the health department is aware of her son’s case. Currently, she is trying to find out where he contracted the virus.

“That weighs on me, from day one, and we are all trying to analyze his life up to this point, and we just have no idea we have no direction,” Hall said.

According to newly released numbers from the Florida Department of Health, confirmed cases of hepatitis A are already three times higher than in 2018. Since Jan. 1 there have been 1718 cases. Compare that to 548 cases in 2018.

If you go back to 2014, there were only 106 cases in the entire state of Florida. According to the report, 355 cases were reported in June.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Antibodies produced in response to hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.”

How do you contract the virus?

The CDC lists risk factors as “people with direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A. Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common. Men who have sexual contact with men. People who use drugs, both injection and non-injection drugs. Household members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common. People with clotting factor disorders, such as hemophilia. People working with nonhuman primates.”

Hall said she plans to get vaccinated and urges other families to take precautions to avoid the pain her family is suffering.

There will also be two FREE Hepatitis A vaccination events:

  • Anna Maria Elementary School, 4700 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach

July 5 – 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

  • Manatee County Health Department, 410 6th Avenue East in Bradenton

July 6 – 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Hepatitis A vaccine may provide protection against the disease if given within two weeks after exposure. Patrons should monitor for symptoms of hepatitis A infection, which include sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, dark urine, fever diarrhea, pale white stools, and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice). Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention promptly.

A hotline has been set up for people who have questions about hepatitis A. The number to call is 941-708-5951 and will be active starting at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 5.