Officials combat hepatitis A outbreak affecting Marion County

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Ocala Fire Rescue (OFR) and the Department of Health in Marion County (DoHMC) have partnered to combat the hepatitis A outbreak affecting our community. Encouraging vaccination against the highly contagious illness – which has affected more than 138 individuals in Marion County during 2019 alone – OFR will be offering hepatitis A vaccines at select locations.

The Hepatitis A vaccination clinics will be free and open to the public. Clinics will be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Fire Station 3 (737 SW MLK Jr., Ocala) and Fire Station 7 (885 SE 31st St., Ocala). Vaccinations will be administered on Wednesdays from 7 – 10 a.m. and from 3 – 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Due to the high occurrence of reported hepatitis A cases this year, not only in Marion County but in the state of Florida, OFR and the DoHMC recommend that individuals with high risk for contracting the virus get vaccinated. High-risk populations include, but are not limited to, anyone coming into direct contact with others who have the virus, anyone using or working with individuals who use illicit drugs, as well as individuals experiencing homelessness.

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Although hepatitis A can be spread through sexual contact, it is most commonly acquired when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from a contaminated surface containing traces of infected fecal matter. The best way to prevent the spread of hepatitis A is through vaccination, followed by good hygiene practices. Washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before preparing or eating food, and after using the restroom, changing a diaper, coughing or sneezing, are ways in which you can prevent the spread of the hepatitis A virus.

“The hepatitis A virus can live on surfaces for more than 30 days and is immune to alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” said Ocala Fire Rescue Captain Jesse Blaire. “If those facts aren’t scary enough to make you want to run to a vaccination clinic, I hope that the idea of getting immunized to keep your loved ones safe from this vaccine-preventable virus is.”

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