Florida is one of some 18 states experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak, reporting 1359 cases since 2018.

The Tampa Bay area has been especially hard hit by the outbreak with five counties accounting for more than half the state total.

Pinellas County has seen the most statewide with 300 cases, followed by Pasco County, which has reported 230 cases to date.

Hillsborough County has reported 153 cases and Hernando and Polk counties have seen 33 and 28 cases, respectively.

The Florida Department of Health is actively working to vaccinate those most at risk for hepatitis A infection. This includes people who are experiencing homelessness, users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not and people with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. Additionally, practicing good hand hygiene—including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food—plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is caused by contagious virus that infects the liver, and can lead to serious liver problems.

Image/CDC

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. If a person who has the virus comes in close contact with others—like during sex—the virus can also spread.

A person can have hepatitis A for up two weeks without feeling sick but during that time can spread the virus to others. Symptoms (fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, diarrhea, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice [yellow skin or eyes]) usually start two to six weeks after infection and last less than two months.