Students contract hepatitis A, health officials seeking cause
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Three students – two from the University of Florida and one from the University of Central Florida — have contracted hepatitis A, and UF and Alachua County health officials are investigating how it may have occurred.
While the source of the virus remains unclear, officials suspect it was transmitted on the UF campus, said Tom Belcuore, director of the Alachua County Health Department. They are urging the community, especially UF students, faculty and staff, to watch for any symptoms and have them evaluated as soon as possible, said Phil Barkley, director of UF’s Student Health Care Center.
Symptoms of hepatitis A, a virus that affects the liver, include the sudden onset of fever, malaise, nausea, decreased appetite and abdominal discomfort, followed in several days by jaundice – yellow discoloration of the eyes and a darkening of the urine.
It is most commonly spread by fecal-oral transmission in areas with poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is lacking.
UF and the Alachua County Health Department are working together to isolate the source and hope to soon identify how it was contracted.
Hepatitis A has an incubation period of anywhere from 14 to 50 days, depending on the level of exposure. About 22,700 cases of hepatitis A are reported annually in the United States, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The virus rarely causes death and symptoms are often mild. People who contract it sometimes exhibit no symptoms. While no treatment is available, anyone who has been in contact with a person who has the illness within two weeks of exposure can receive an immunization to prevent the disease.
Barkley said the affected students, whose names are being withheld for privacy reasons, are in good condition. All three are from the Orlando area, but the UCF student visited the UF campus in mid-September, which is why officials are uncertain as to where they may have contracted the virus. The two UF students live on campus, Barkley said.
However, Barkley emphasized that anyone with concerns about potential symptoms should see a health-care provider right away. Hepatitis A can be diagnosed with a blood test.
For more information, call the UF Student Health Care Center at (352) 392-1161 or the Alachua County Health Department at (352) 334-7901.
- Phil Barkley, (352) 262-2732
- Tom Belcuore, (352) 334-7902 or 258-4295