A fifth person in Martin County died of complications from the hepatitis A virus.
A fifth person in Martin County has died of complications from the hepatitis A virus, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office said the virus was a factor in the death 79-year-old Glenn Harris, of Stuart.
Harris died July 3 at a hospice care facility in Palm Beach County. Four hepatitis A-related deaths were previously reported this year in Palm City in Martin County.
More than 2,000 cases of hepatitis A have been reported statewide since the beginning of 2019, prompting Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to declare a public health emergency earlier this month.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver and is spread when a person ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by the fecal matter of an infected person. Symptoms may include jaundice, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Health officials have urged those deemed to be at high risk for the virus — including the homeless, drug users, hospital emergency room staffs, and people caring for someone with hepatitis A — to get vaccinated. Officials have also urged the practice of frequent hand washing, particularly before preparing or eating food.
A public health emergency allows the Florida Department of Health to take administrative actions to guard against the outbreak worsening, such as increasing the supply of vaccines.
As of Aug. 10, there had been 53 cases of hepatitis A reported in Palm Beach County, while Martin County had 32 cases, including the five fatalities. There have been 32 reported cases in St. Lucie County, 8 cases in Okeechobee County and 5 in Indian River County.
Many of the reported cases have occurred in the Tampa area, with Pasco County reporting 373 cases and Pinellas County listing 340.
There were fewer cases reported statewide in July than in June, marking the second straight month that the number of cases has decreased, according to the health department. There were 355 cases in July compared to 362 cases in June, state statistics show.