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By Renay Rouse

July 23, 2019

Martin County, FLOn July 18, staff from the Florida Department of Health in Martin County
and members of the Martin County Sheriff’s Community Policing Unit, led by Sergeant George
Yacobellis, met to discuss plans to work in collaboration to provide hepatitis A education and
encourage vaccination throughout the community.

“The Sheriff’s office is a key and valued partner in supporting our hepatitis A response and
prevention efforts,” said Carolann Vitani, Interim Health Officer and Nursing Director for the
Florida Department of Health in Martin County. “We are grateful for the support of the officers
and their willingness to facilitate opportunities to raise awareness about the importance of
hepatitis A vaccination in our community.”

During the meeting, health department staff provided officers with an overview about hepatitis A
symptoms, how the virus is transmitted and how an epidemiological investigation is conducted.
Officers also learned about how health department staff work in partnership with local and state
agencies to support hepatitis A prevention initiatives. Officers were also provided with hepatitis
A prevention cards, which direct residents to resources for the hepatitis A vaccination.

Collaboration with the Sheriff’s office began in May when health department staff began
vaccinating inmates at the Martin County Jail. Through weekly outreach to the jail, more than
400 inmates have received the hepatitis A vaccine. The Martin County Sheriff’s office has also
agreed to assist with any needs that the Department of Health in Martin County may have, both
for vaccination outreach and investigation resources as needed.

In the coming weeks, the groups will join forces at key community events and gatherings such
as soup kitchens to provide hepatitis A vaccination and education.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is found in
the stool of people who are infected and is commonly spread through person to person contact.
Infection occurs when someone ingests the virus. While normally not fatal, persons with chronic
disease, compromised immune systems and the elderly are more likely to experience a severe
illness, leading to liver failure and possible death. Martin County has 32 confirmed cases of
hepatitis A and 4 deaths associated with complications from the virus.

Practicing good hand hygiene plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.
Alcohol based hand sanitizers do not kill the virus. Washing hands with soap and water after
changing diapers, and before preparing, serving or eating food is key to stopping the spread of
hepatitis A and other germs.

Inform, Educate & Vaccinate

Health Department staff are working closely with community partners including, the House of
Hope, LAHIA, Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic, the Salvation Army and others to provide the
hepatitis A prevention education and vaccine to vulnerable and at-risk populations throughout
the county.

Since April, there have been approximately 10,085 doses of the hepatitis A vaccine
dispensed in Martin County, with Health Department staff providing about 2,594 of those

The hepatitis A vaccine is available in the community via healthcare providers and local
pharmacies. The Florida Department of Health in Martin County at 3441 SE Willoughby Blvd.,
Stuart offers free hepatitis A vaccinations for uninsured, underinsured and at-risk adults (ages
19 and older) on a walk-in basis, Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 3:30 pm.

Additional Resources:

The Florida Department of Health has launched an information line, email box and a website to
address general questions about Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A, Information Line:
1-844-CALL-DOH (1-844-225-5364) available Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm