Customers who ate at a McDonald’s in Northport, AL between February 28 and March 14 may have been exposed to hepatitis A through an infected employee, according to the Alabama Department of Health. 

In a news alert, state health officials advised customers who visited the McDonald’s at 2000 McFarland Blvd. in Northport any time on March 14, 2012, or during breakfast hours on March 16, 2012 to contact a health care provider as soon as possible.

They said customers who do not have a health care provider should contact the Tuscaloosa County Health Department at 205-562-6900.

“Hepatitis A vaccine and immune globulin can prevent hepatitis A virus infection, but only when given within 14 days of exposure,”  explained Dr. Donald Williamson, State Health Officer, in the news release. Therefore, individuals exposed on March 14 or 16, 2012, should receive treatment no later than this Friday, March 30.

People who have previously received hepatitis A vaccine are considered protected from this exposure.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure and commonly include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine, light stools, and jaundice (yellowness of eyes or skin). The disease varies in severity, from mild cases lasting 2 weeks or less to more severe cases lasting 4 to 6 weeks or longer.

Hepatitis A virus spreads when a person ingests contaminated food or water, or is exposed to contaminated objects. Persons are at increased risk of acquiring hepatitis A virus when they have been in close and continuous contact with an infected individual, particularly in a household. Frequent thorough handwashing with warm water and soap for 20 seconds is key to stopping the spread of hepatitis A virus. Handwashing should include the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.