TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state of Florida issued a public health advisory Wednesday because of a sharp spike in hepatitis A cases this year, primarily in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas.

  • State issues public health advisory over hepatitis A spike
  • Officials: Surge in cases is mostly in Tampa Bay, Orlando areas
  • Health Department urging vulnerable groups to get vaccinated

There have been 385 cases of hepatitis A statewide since January, which is more than triple the average number of cases reported the past five years, said the Florida Department of Health.

In the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas, food-service workers in at least three popular restaurants were found to have been infected with hepatitis A in the past several weeks.

Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that attacks the liver. Symptoms usually start within a month of exposure and can include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Dark urine
  • Pale- or clay-colored stool

Hepatitis A is primarily spread through the fecal-oral route, via poor hygiene, sexually, or through ingesting contaminated food or water. Most people do recover but require hospitalization.

Health officials are urging certain groups more vulnerable to the disease to get vaccinated, including: infants 1 or younger, those who are at high risk of infection, men who engage in sex with men, people with chronic liver disease, users of recreational drugs, people who have contact with people from countries where hepatitis A is common and more.