Hepatitis A Outbreak in Florida Adds 58 Cases

Florida had 58 hepatitis A cases reported last week, bringing the total number of cases this year to 3,028 as of Saturday, according to the state Department of Health.

Sarasota County led the state in the number of new cases last week with eight, followed by Volusia County with seven, according to a News Service of Florida analysis of the data.

As of Saturday, 274 cases of hepatitis A had been reported this year in Volusia County, while the number of cases in Sarasota County stood at 92. Pasco County led the state with 404 cases, including two new cases last week.

Pinellas County had one new hepatitis A case last week, bringing its total for the year to 376, according to the News Service analysis of the state data.

Hepatitis A, which can cause liver damage, can be spread through such things as food or drinks that have been contaminated with fecal matter from people with the disease.

Health officials have urged Floridians to get vaccinated against the disease.

State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who doubles as secretary of the Department of Health, has used $3 million in funds from county health departments to hire additional workers to help vaccinate high-risk populations, including homeless people, drug users and gay men.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease that is caused by an infection from hepatitis A virus. What is shocking about this illness is that not everyone who is infected with the virus will have symptoms of the illness. In most cases, the illness is results in mild, flu-like gastrointestinal symptoms. In the worst cases, hepatitis A can impair proper functioning of the liver and even lead to death.

The hepatitis A virus is a collection of molecules that uses the body’s method of constructing new material to produce copies of itself. When the virus uses a human host to reproduce itself, the human host often becomes ill in its effort to fight the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year in the United States an estimated 143,000 cases of hepatitis A infection occurs, but only around 30,000 are reported. Hepatitis A is also responsible for an estimated 1.4 million cases worldwide each year.

You may be wondering how this virus is spread to others. The hepatitis A virus is spread from person to person by “fecal-oral” transmission. This means the virus is transmitted when a person puts something in their mouth that has been contaminated with the fecal matter of a person infected with the virus. Because this virus depends on the fecal-oral route for transmission, the illness is most easily spread under poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is not observed. 

Outbreaks are often traced back to contaminated food. Food supplies can become contaminated when infected workers come into contact with food supplies during processing or in restaurants. If a restaurant worker has the hepatitis A virus and does not wash their hands after using the restroom, they can then transfer the virus to others during food preparation.  

Foods that are most commonly associated with outbreaks are water, shellfish, and salads. In most cases, the true source is water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Other common food sources are cold cuts, pre-made sandwiches, unwashed fruit, fruit juices, milk products, vegetables, salads, shellfish, and iced drinks.

Most people who become infected with hepatitis A return back to normal health. This virus is more common in children, but is often more severe in adults. More than one-fifth of adult hepatitis A patients require hospitalization. In the most severe cases, hepatitis A can cause inflammation and swelling of the liver, which can impair liver function and cause permanent damage to the liver. Most of these cases require hospitalization. Each year approximately 100 people die as a result of these infections in the U.S.

Anyone who has tested positive for hepatitis A may have a claim for medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of income, and other damages. Our Florida Hepatitis A Outbreak Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can gather the necessary evidence to connect your illness to a specific food product or location. Once you hire us, we can begin:

  • interviewing you and others to find out how you contracted the virus and how it has negatively impacted your life 
  • once we have gathered enough evidence, we can send a demand letter asking for a specific amount of money to the company or companies responsible
  • negotiate with the other side’s attorneys 
  • if settlement negotiations fail, take your case to trial
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