Hepatitis A Outbreak in Pinellas County Florida

Hepatitis A Lawyers Whittel & Melton

A Hepatitis A outbreak has been confirmed in Florida, and more specifically, Tampa Bay is at the center of it all. Since Jan. 2018, 18 Floridians who have contracted the virus have died. The outbreak has been linked to restaurant workers testing positive for the disease.

Since January 2018, 1,768 people have tested positive for Hepatitis A, which is more than double the number from 2016 to 2017. The number of cases in 2019 (898) has already surpassed the total number of cases in 2018. Of the 1,768 total cases in Florida from Jan. 1, 2018, to May 18, 2019, 834 of the cases were in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Pinellas County had the highest number of cases – 357.

Since January, cases have been confirmed at the following restaurants in Tampa Bay:

  • ICON Gentlemen’s Club, 18728 U.S. 19, Hudson, April 24
  • Ulele, 1810 N. Highland Ave., Tampa, Feb. 6
  • Taco Bell, 40976 U.S. 19 N., Tarpon Springs, April 12
  • Hellas Bakery, 785 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs, March 19
  • Central Park Inc., 7657 State Road 54, New Port Richey, Jan. 19
  • Jimmy’s Fish House and Iguana Bar, 521 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach, March 19
  • Pollo Tropical, 2140 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater, March 25
  • Sandpipe Grille, 702 S. Pebble Beach Blvd., Sun City Center, April 3
  • Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill, 1320 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, April 15
  • Ollies on the Beach, 6438 Clark St., Hudson, Jan. 25
  • Cracker Barrel, 5341 U.S. 19, New Port Richey, Feb. 18
  • Bob Katz Bar and Grill, 12340 U.S. 19 N., Hudson, April 1
  • Arby’s, 30263 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater, April 5
  • Silverthorn Country Club, 4550 Golf Club Lane, Spring Hill, April 12

Those most at risk for the hepatitis A infection include:

  • All children at age 1 year
  • People who are homeless
  • Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • Gay and bi-sexual men
  • People with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • People with clotting-factor disorders
  • Family and caregivers of children adopted from countries where hepatitis A is common

What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is caused by a contagious virus that infects the liver, and can lead to serious liver problems, hospitalization and death. The virus spreads through the feces of people who have the virus. If a person with the virus doesn’t wash his or her hands after going to the bathroom, feces can transfer to objects, food, drinks or drugs. When these things are shared, other people can unknowingly swallow the virus. The virus can also spread through close contact, such as sexual relations.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease if given within two weeks after exposure. Those exposed should receive the first dose of the hepatitis A immunization immediately and a second dose in six months.

Symptoms of a hepatitis A infection include sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, pale white stools, and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice).

If you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention promptly. The DOH in Pinellas County has set up a 24-hour hotline for people who have questions about hepatitis A. The number to call is 727-824-6932.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for the Outbreak?

Our Hepatitis A Lawyers At Whittel & Melton can help you sue a restaurant, grocery store, food company or drug company that sold you a contaminated product resulting in a serious illness or death.

In Hepatitis A cases, companies that could be legally responsible generally include the following:

  • A restaurant whose employee was sick, did not wash his or her hands well, and then handled food and got feces containing the hepatitis A virus on that food
  • A restaurant that served a food item that was contaminated before it got to the restaurant
  • A retailer, a food grower, processor, distributor, and others in the supply chain if the contamination can be traced back

If the contamination can be traced back, the company where the first contamination happened is primarily liable, however many other companies, including a grocery store, other retailer, or restaurant can also be named as defendants and sued for their role in the outbreak.

How Does A Restaurant Worker Spread the Disease?

If a restaurant employee who handles food contracts hepatitis A and does not wash their hands well after going to the bathroom, any feces left on the hands can get into diners’ food. Hepatitis A colonizes in human feces, so anyone who eats the infected food handler’s feces will consume cells of this virus and become infected. To be blunt, if you contracted the virus from a restaurant, you ate an employee’s poop. And yes, the restaurant should be held accountable for this gross negligence.

The foods most commonly associated with outbreaks are water, shellfish, and salads. Other foods commonly contaminated are cold cuts, pre-made sandwiches, unwashed fruit, fruit juices, milk products, vegetables, and iced drinks.

Is there an “Incubation Period” for Hepatitis A?

The term “incubation period” means the length of time between being infected with a pathogen and the appearance of symptoms. For hepatitis A, the incubation period is usually around 30 days, but can be anywhere from 10 to 50 days.

Symptoms of this disease do not show in everyone infected. You may be exposed to it and spread it to others without knowing that you have it. The infectious period is from two weeks before jaundice occurs through the first week of jaundice. This means that someone can transmit illness for two weeks before they even know they have it.

Can I Sue the Restaurant If I Did Not Test Positive for Hepatitis A?

Actually, yes. If you had to have an immune globulin shot to find out if you contracted the virus, then you can sue for the emotional distress caused by not knowing whether or not you have hepatitis A. The incubation period can be as long as 2 months. That is quite a long time to have to worry about getting extremely sick. Just like anyone who tested positive for hepatitis A, you may have a claim for medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of income, and other damages.

How Can Whittel & Melton Help Me Pursue Compensation?

Once you contact us for legal help, we will begin gathering necessary evidence to connect your illness to a specific food product or location. This includes interviewing you and others regarding how you contracted the illness and how it adversely affected your life. Once we have conducted a thorough investigation, we can begin to go after the responsible parties to demand compensation for your damages. Sometimes negotiations can be made for just sums of money, but if not, we are prepared to take your case to trial.

Call us today at 727-823-0000 for a completely free consultation.

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