Worried About Measles or Hepatitis A?
Public Health Alert: As of August 3, 2,671 cases of Hepatitis A have been reported in Florida in 2019. The counties with the most cases are: Brevard, Citrus, Glades, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Liberty, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Sumter, Taylor and Volusia.
It’s important to remember two things:
- Vaccinations are the best way to protect yourself from Hepatitis A
- Hand washing is one of the keys to stop the spread of the virus
You should always wash your hands:
- before you prepare food or work with food that isn’t already packaged; and
- after you use the bathroom; touch people or public surfaces; change a diaper; cough, sneeze or use a tissue; use tobacco; eat or drink; or touch food, drinks or cigarettes that may have been handled by a person with Hepatitis A.
Also, don’t use a shared towel in a public restroom—always use a paper towel or air dryer.
This blog gives details on Hepatitis A symptoms, what to do if you have symptoms and where to go for your vaccinations. If you have questions about your Florida Blue health plan benefits, please call us at the number on the back of your member ID card.
Sometimes disease control can feel like whack-a-mole.
Health officials declared measles eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. But this year a national measles outbreak infected more than 900 people in the U.S. by early June. It’s the most cases reported since 2000.
At the same time, an outbreak of Hepatitis A sickened more than 1,300 people in Florida and caused several deaths.
Sadly for those who got sick, these are preventable diseases. You can protect yourself from both measles and Hepatitis A by getting vaccinated. Most Florida Blue plans cover these shots at no extra cost when you see a provider in your plan’s network.
How the Outbreaks Occurred
This year’s measles outbreak touched counties throughout the U.S. It’s spread through the air. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel1, the areas with the most cases are those where:
- someone brought measles in from outside of the country and
- vaccination rates were low.
Hepatitis A spreads through the feces (poop) of someone who’s infected with the virus. For example, a person carrying the disease doesn’t wash their hands well after using the bathroom. Then they touch food that someone else eats. In Florida, an infected person who worked in a restaurant may have helped to spread the virus, the South Florida Sun Sentinel2 reported.
Understanding Measles and Hepatitis A
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be fatal. It’s spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. Babies and young children are especially susceptible to catching measles. Symptoms start out like a cold: cough, runny nose, fever and red eyes. According to the Centers for Disease control, measles is so contagious that if a person has it, up to 90% of the people3 around them will also be infected if they’re not protected. It can take weeks or longer to recover. There can be lifelong effects.
- In Florida, children should get the MMR (combination measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in two doses. The first is due at 12 to 15 months. The second is due between ages 4 and 6.
- Adults who don’t know if they had the shots and those vaccinated before 1968 in the U.S. should now get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
- If you know that you had the measles as a child, you’re likely protected from it and won’t need an extra shot.
- Those at high risk should get a second dose 28 days later. This includes international travelers and health care workers.
Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that infects the liver. Symptoms include jaundiced (yellowed) skin or eyes, tiredness, nausea and loss of appetite. People with Hepatitis A rarely die from it right away, but liver failure is common later in life.
Hepatitis A Vaccinations
- Children should get the vaccination in two doses between ages 12 months and 23 months. Your child might not have had the hepatitis A shot, as it’s not currently on the list of required school vaccinations in Florida. It’s smart to check your records to be sure it was done.
- Hepatitis A vaccine is given as two shots, six months apart. Both shots are needed for long-term protection.
- The hepatitis A vaccine also comes in a combination form, containing both hepatitis A and B vaccine, that can be given to anyone 18 years of age and older. This combination vaccine is given as 3 shots, over 6 months. All three shots are needed for long-term protection for both hepatitis A and B.
- Most Florida Blue individual and employer-provided plans cover adult vaccines for hepatitis A. Members should call their medical provider to find out if they need the shots. Note: Although Original Medicare does not cover the hepatitis A vaccine, our Medicare Advantage plans cover it.
According to the Florida Department of Health, these are the 10 Florida counties with the most cases of hepatitis A:
To find out more, you can look up your local health department here or call the Florida Department of Health at 844-225-5364.
Knowledge is Power
Please read and share this helpful information:
Protect Yourself: Hepatitis A is on the Rise (Florida Department of Health)
Vaccines Protect the Whole Community
More people today choose not to vaccinate. Some believe vaccines cause autism and other chronic illnesses. But U.S. public health officials say there is no evidence to support this. We agree, and we encourage you to follow the recommended guidelines for immunizations. Your doctor can give you more details about which ones you need.
Deciding not to vaccinate yourself or your kids can affect those around you. Babies and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to catch illnesses. If you catch measles because you aren’t vaccinated, you could give it to a young baby just by coughing or sneezing near them.
Diseases that have nearly disappeared in the U.S. can easily come back when large groups of people aren’t protected. It’s important to know that we protect our entire community when we get vaccinated.
Vaccinations Are Safe and Effective
You may have heard some of the untrue rumors about immunizations. We want to reassure you that they’re safe, effective and vital to keep our community healthy. Here are some easy-to-understand facts to educate you and put your mind at ease:
(immunize.org, Immunization Action Coalition)
Keep your Family Safe
Many Florida Blue individual or employer-provided health plans cover these shots at no extra cost when you use any in-network pharmacy or provider. Vaccines administered under the Medicare prescription benefit may require a copay/cost share. However, Medicare members with certain health risks may be able to get certain vaccines at no extra cost. Be sure to review your plan’s benefits to check your exact cost.
Start by calling or seeing your doctor. They’ll know which vaccinations you need and what’s covered by your plan.
Vaccinations for People without Insurance
People without insurance can call the Florida Department of Health at 844-225-5364. They usually offer children’s vaccinations at no cost, and adults can get their shots at a low cost or free.
If You Have Symptoms
If you think you or a loved one has symptoms of measles or hepatitis A, call your doctor immediately for advice on where to go. These are serious diseases that can get worse if they’re not treated quickly.
Make sure you and your children are up to date on immunizations for measles, hepatitis A and other preventable diseases. It’s the best way to protect you and the ones you love.
Filed under: Prevention