TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The number of cases of hepatitis A in Florida has continued to steadily increase, with the largest concentration of the outbreak in the Tampa Bay area, according to numbers posted on the state Department of Health website.

The outbreak of the contagious liver disease began in 2018 and has accelerated this year.

“Usually, you contract it by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. It is a fecal bound virus meaning it was a contamination of food or water from feces and from humans,” Dr. Maciej “Matt” Ferenc.

Dr. Ferenc is an assistant medical director at Broward Health Medical Center. He encourages people to wash their hands before meals and to also get vaccinated.

“It works well, absolutely. It’s especially very useful for people who are traveling to countries or areas which have the disease,” he said.

The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade confirmed 13 cases have been reported this year.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports 8 cases in Broward and a statewide total of 883.

Records show last year, 548 cases reported in all of 2018. By comparison, the state had 122 cases in 2016 and 276 cases in 2017.

From Jan. 1, 2018 through April 13, 2019, Pinellas County had the largest number of cases, with 300, according to the Department of Health. It was followed by Pasco County with 230 cases, Orange County with 170 cases and Hillsborough County with 153 cases.

The outbreak has drawn attention recently, in part because of cases discovered in Martin County.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez appeared at an April 12 news conference in Martin County and said the state will “leave no stone unturned” as it investigates the outbreak.

The disease can be spread through such things as food or drinks that have been contaminated with fecal matter from people with hepatitis A.

Nuñez and other officials urged people to get vaccinated against the disease.

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