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Officials in Michigan, Utah warn about new hepatitis A cases

Public health officials in Utah and Michigan are alerting people to possible exposure to the hepatitis A virus after confirmation of infected foodservice workers.

The illnesses are part of a multi-state outbreak that has sickened about 1,200 people and killed almost 50. Infected people are usually contagious before they develop symptoms. The highly contagious virus can be easily transmitted through foods or beverages. Unvaccinated people have only two weeks after potential exposure to seek post-exposure treatment.

The Utah and Michigan foodservice workers are employed at an Edible Arrangements location and a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, respectively.

Initially, most victims in the multi-state outbreak were homeless people or substance abusers. However, from 25 to 35 percent of infected people are neither homeless nor substance abusers. Also, foodservice workers are increasingly being identified in multiple states as being infected, which has the potential to expose large groups of people to the virus.

Anyone who ate food from the Edible Arrangements store at 5211 S. State St., in Murray, UT, between March 21 and April 13 may have been exposed, Salt Lake County Health Department officials warned Wednesday.

The department said about 600 arrangements were sold during that time period. Anyone who handled or ate any portion of the arrangements could have been exposed.

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest potential hepatitis A exposure incident in Utah, which has identified 238 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus. In January Health officials also warned in January about hepatitis A exposure at businesses in Salt Lake and Utah counties.

Anyone who handled or ate Edible Arrangement items from the Murray store should call 385-468-4636 for instructions about post-exposure treatment and self monitoring for symptoms of infection.

In Michigan, officials reported a case of hepatitis A has been confirmed in a food service worker at the Buffalo Wild Wings on Mound Road north of 12 Mile in Warren. Anyone who ate at the restaurant between March 24 and April 9 was potentially exposed to the virus.

Officials inspected the restaurant Tuesday. The management is working with the officials and the restaurant has been approved to operate, the Macomb County Health Department said.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by a virus. The disease can range from a mild illness to a severe sickness that can last several months. For some people it causes life-long complications.

Anyone who ate food or drank beverages from either the Edible Arrangements business in Utah or the Buffalo Wild Wings in Michigan should watch for hepatitis A symptoms for the next 50 days. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, fever, chills and yellowing of the eyes and/or skin. People who develop these symptoms would seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the exposure to the virus.

Michigan is the second hardest hit state, behind California, in the ongoing outbreak. The state has confirmed 804 cases since August 2016. Twenty-five people have died, and 646 have been hospitalized, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Warren is in Macomb County, which has the most confirmed cases in the state, with 216.

Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine administered in two doses six months apart for people older than 1 year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should get hepatitis A vaccine if you are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common; are a man who has sex with other men; use illegal drugs; have a chronic liver disease such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C; are being treated with clotting-factor concentrates; work with hepatitis A-infected animals or in a hepatitis A research laboratory; or expect to have close personal contact with an international adoptee from a country where hepatitis A is common.

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