Nebraska state and local health officials are investigating five cases of hepatitis A in the Omaha metro area.

The five cases have been reported within the past three weeks, with symptom onset between October 15 and November 5. That means the five likely were exposed in mid-September, Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department, said Friday.

The five, all female, range in age from 14 to 73. Three of the five were hospitalized. Two have been released; health officials don’t know the status of the third hospitalized person.

The virus is transmitted primarily through the fecal-oral route, either by person-to-person contact or through ingestion of contaminated food or water. Often that occurs when food is contaminated by someone who is ill and hasn’t properly washed their hands. It also can be transmitted by sexual contact, shared needles and blood transfusions, although those routes are less common.

Pour said health officials so far have not identified a product or place connecting the individuals. They are spread throughout the community and have not had any known contact with one another. Health officials have excluded international travel and shared needles as possible routes of transmission.

The virus, which attacks the liver, can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain and jaundice.

The incubation period for the virus is approximately 30 days. Individuals are considered most contagious during the two weeks before and one week after symptoms begin.

Those who are diagnosed with hepatitis A or people who have developed symptoms after being exposed to it should not work or prepare food for a week after symptoms begin and until symptoms are gone for more than 24 hours.

Those who have had hepatitis A are considered immune to the virus. Those who have been vaccinated for it are much less likely to get it but still can be infected.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $650 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food.  The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Costco, Subway, McDonald’s, Red Robin, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr.  We proudly represented the family of Donald Rockwell, who died after consuming hepatitis A tainted food and Richard Miller, who required a liver transplant after eating food at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant.

If you or a family member became ill with a Hepatitis A infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Hepatitis A attorneys for a free case evaluation.