Phones of area doctors, pharmacies and health departments have been ringing off the hook with questions about Hepatitis A after the recent outbreak in Martin County and other areas in Florida. While the Florida Health Department and CDC are still gathering information to determine the source of the outbreak, it is de nitely unsettling to hear of deaths caused by this virus. And, while I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, I do think it is important to arm yourself with education about diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations so you can weigh your options and determine if you should make a trip to your health care provider.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Although rare, hepatitis A can cause death in some people. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
Because Hepatitis A can be spread through contact with food, one of the ways it can be transmitted is through restaurants. Although Hepatitis A is not as common in the United States as in other parts of the world, there were 4,000 reported cases in the US in 2016.
Many adults have had their “routine” vaccinations such as flu, pneumonia, shingles, tetanus and childhood vaccines, however, the Hepatitis A vaccine is not a routine vaccination. It is, however, easy to obtain and often covered by insurance copays. It is carried at many pharmacies and the local health department and is a 2 dose series separated by 6 months. I encourage you to look into this vaccination to help protect you from exposure.
Another disease that seems to be making resurgence is measles. Measles is a serious respiratory disease (in the lungs and breathing tubes) that causes a rash and fever. It is very contagious. In rare cases, it can be deadly. It is very contagious and can be spread by coughing or sneezing. Almost anyone who is exposed to measles and unvaccinated will contract it.
Reports of measles have been widely covered in the media in recent weeks, although these cases currently are largely restricted to New York and California. As of this writing, the number of measles cases reported in 2019 is up to 704, the highest since an outbreak in 2014 and much higher than a typical year. Cases seem to be restricted to communities where there have been large numbers of unvaccinated children, mostly due to religious or cultural reasons.
So, should you be concerned about contracting measles or getting vaccinated? The CDC says that most adults born before 1957 actually contracted measles in childhood and are considered protected. However, those immunized in the mid-1960’s (1963-1967) most likely received a killed measles vaccine which is not considered effective. Therefore, those adults should consider getting one dose of live measles vaccine (MMR) because it will be 93% effective against measles (and also provide protection against mumps and rubella). Those vaccinated after that time should also be protected. However, the CDC does advise that it is safe for patients to get a booster dose if they are unsure or do not have access to their immunization records.
Your health care providers are happy to answer questions that you may have. Additionally, many local pharmacies have stocked up on both of these vaccines due to the increase in cases and the increase in interest by the public. I have provided some links below to the CDC pages for more information and these pages also list the contraindications for obtaining these vaccines as certain patients are not eligible depending on their immune system competency or allergies.
Insummary,adultsdoneedvaccines too! Please allow your pharmacist to serve as a valuable resource to help you determine what vaccines you should get. And, don’t forget about your annual u shot, along with ensuring that you are up to date with tetanus, pneumonia and possibly the shingles vaccine. As always, the staff of Bay Street Pharmacy is happy to help so call us at 772-589-2043 or visit www.baystreetpharmacy.com.