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New cases of hepatitis A in Palm Beach, St. Lucie Counties

Posted at 3:32 PM, May 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-14 16:10:16-04

Concern is mounting and the community is still searching for answers over a deadly hepatitis A outbreak.

This comes as the number of confirmed cases of the virus rises to 14 in Palm Beach County, and nine in St. Lucie County. Martin County has 20 confirmed cases.

"Where is it coming from?" asked Kim Moscato, who lives in Martin County.

Moscato asked the question many people in Martin County are thinking, as investigators are still trying to pinpoint the source of a deadly hepatitis A outbreak.

"I'm concerned, I'll say that because I don't want to catch it," said Moscato, after three people in Martin County died from complications related to hepatitis A.

"It is traceable, so eventually we will get an answer, but it does take some time initially," said Dr. David Dodson, an infectious disease doctor at Good Samaritan Medical Center.

Dodson says Florida is almost a breeding ground for hepatitis A because of the transient population. The incubation period for hep A is about 2-4 weeks, so investigators have to go back a month to figure out where the virus came from.

"It does take a little time because you have to interview people and find out where they've been, where they've eaten, what they've done," Dodson said. "Sometimes people's memories aren't so good about what they were doing a month ago."

Dodson says the symptoms are similar to the flu, and hep A is transmitted by ingesting contaminated food or water.

Moscato is now taking precautions, until she figures out exactly where the virus is coming from.

"We don't go out to eat that much anymore," Moscato said. "Just even going into Publix, I go home and scrub myself down because I am so paranoid about it because I just got through breast cancer."

"They will probably figure this out, but in the meantime if you're at all concerned get vaccinated," Dodson said.

Martin County is launching a new awareness campaign this week, and will be placing posters at gas stations encouraging people to protect themselves and get vaccinated. The health department said it is also running ads on the radio with tips to help stop the spread.

Here are the latest number of cases from our local counties:

  • Palm Beach County: 14
  • Martin County: 20
  • St. Lucie County: 9
  • Indian River County: 0
  • Okeechobee County: 1

Last month, health officials said the source of the outbreak is still unknown, and could take weeks to uncover.