The central Florida region reported the highest hepatitis A activity levels in the state last month, according to the Florida Department of Health. The highest number of cases were reported in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

This year, we’ve seen more than an 85% increase in the number of reported cases. In 2018, there were 548 cases reported in the state. Between January and May of this year, there have been 1,372 cases reported, according health officials.

Since January 2018, health officials reported 1,920 total cases of hepatitis A. Of those, 1,353 people were hospitalized and 21 died as a direct result of the infection, according to health officials.

Health officials say hep A activity is above the previous 5-year average and has steadily increased since April 2018.

According to the Department of Health, the best way to prevent contracting the hepatitis A infection is through vaccination. In May alone, officials say 98% of people infected had not been vaccinated.

Of the cases reported in May, officials say 22% were epidemiologically linked to other cases. That means, “a case in which the patient has/has had contact with one or more persons who have/had the disease,” according to the CDC.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It’s usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water, according to the CDC.

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