Pinellas health officials administer free Hepatitis A vaccines amid rise in cases

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It's gross, it's extremely contagious, and for Bay Area residents, it's been a huge cause for concern. On Saturday, the Pinellas County Health Department offered free Hepatitis A vaccinations to those in the community to help fight back against outbreaks in the county.

This year, an increase of confirmed cases of Hepatitis A had plagued local counties. 

"We had seen only a few cases every year prior to the last two years, and then we saw an increase in June of last year, and it's been high ever since," said Gayle Guidash with the Pinellas County Health Department.

But Florida health departments have not sat idly by. Like Pinellas County, health officials have been pushing awareness and providing solutions to those hoping to protect themselves.  

"We are doing what we call, not only foot teams, but a Hepatitis A clinic where we give out no-cost vaccinations for the community," said Guidash. "We've picked the north part of Pinellas County, because we've seen an increase in cases both in Pinellas and Pasco County."

While many reports have surfaced of workers carrying Hepatitis A at many Bay Area restaurants, you're more likely to get the illness from a family member, friend or co-worker.

"Restaurants are a risk, but they're a very low risk," explained Guidash. "In Florida, we haven't seen a lot of transmission, if any, that we can prove came from a restaurant worker."

Luckily, the solution is both simple and effective. 

"The best way to protect yourself from Hepatitis A is to get the vaccination," said Guidash.

It's quick and relatively painless. 

"I came in this morning and saw that there was no lines. It was easy-peasy," said Shirley Cordero, a patient during Saturday's free event. 

The vaccination is a preventative measure and also a reminder that it doesn't take much to keep yourself healthy. 

"Coming in gives us awareness of what is going to happen basically and the security that we've got the vaccine," said Eginhard Cordero, a recipient of the no-cost vaccine.

Health officials stress that the Hepatitis A vaccine is two parts. In order to be fully protected, patients must return six months later for their second dose.

The Pinellas County Health Department will continue to offer no-cost Hepatitis A vaccines in the coming weeks.