According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, Florida was ranked first for new diagnoses of acute and chronic hepatitis B and C and fourth for new acute hepatitis B cases, tenth in new acute hepatitis C cases and 11th in new hepatitis A cases per 100,000 population in the United States (including District of Columbia). In 2018, the Florida Department of Health (Department) reported 548 new hepatitis A diagnoses; 617 new acute hepatitis B diagnoses; 2,090 new chronic hepatitis B diagnoses; 435 new acute hepatitis C diagnoses, and 16,193 new chronic hepatitis C diagnoses, for a total of 19,883 new hepatitis diagnoses in Florida.
A robust surveillance system, identification of new cases of hepatitis and linkage to care for those diagnosed with viral hepatitis are keys to the long-term goal of eliminating hepatitis in Florida. Florida Hepatitis Program intends to create tangible, measurable steps in addressing viral hepatitis statewide through the development of a hepatitis elimination plan. Florida’s Hepatitis Program is drafting an elimination plan that outlines three key targets to help towards the elimination of hepatitis and indicators to assist with tracking progress between now and 2025. The program will engage community stakeholders and create an elimination plan working group who will provide input on specific goals, actions and strategies, indicators and recommendations that will make a meaningful impact in Florida’s elimination planning. Florida’s Hepatitis Elimination Plan’s goals include preventing new viral hepatitis infections, improving access and linkage to care, and improving outreach education and messaging. Florida’s elimination plan will assist staff to focus on priority populations that are disproportionally affected by hepatitis A, hepatitis B and or hepatitis C, improved access to prevention, and diagnosis, and access to treatment for hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection.
The Department will continue to improve data collection systems and increase outreach to gain a better understanding of the true burden of viral hepatitis in Florida and be able to systematically collect, analyze, interpret and disseminate data to characterize trends and respond to outbreaks of hepatitis A, B and C infection. We will establish a hepatitis outbreak strike team to rapidly respond to identified areas of concern. The strike team will have specific duties listed within their position descriptions, including communication with counties, local data analysis, and onsite technical assistance including vaccination and testing. By the end of Year One the Department will have a written, comprehensive hepatitis outbreak response plan, building on existing collaborations and partnerships to address and mitigate disease transmission. The plan will have specific responses for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C outbreaks.
To make progress toward the elimination of viral hepatitis in Florida, the Department and key partners and stakeholders must ensure that vaccination for hepatitis A and B is widely available for high-risk populations; testing for hepatitis is routinely available in high volume settings; treatment for hepatitis B and C is readily accessible through increased provider capacity; prevention education is disseminated to appropriate populations and evidence-based interventions are implemented in clinical and non-clinical settings.
The Florida Department of Health has the infrastructure, capacity, and partnerships to leverage additional funding from CDC to support statewide advancement of efforts to eliminate hepatitis in our state.