The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is warning the public about possible exposure to Hepatitis A after a Subway employee in Morrilton, AR, tested positive for the virus. Anyone who ate food from the Morrilton Subway outlet between March 25, 2015, and April 5, 2015, and is experiencing symptoms should contact their primary care provider immediately, officials advised on Tuesday. “So far this is the only case we have related to this [exposure],” said Arkansas State Epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow. “This is the first time in roughly a decade we’ve had an infected food worker.” There are no specific treatments once a person gets Hepatitis A. However, it can be prevented through vaccination or through receipt of a medicine called immune globulin. This medicine contains antibodies from other people who are immune to Hepatitis A. The department stated that people without symptoms who have eaten at this particular Subway between March 25, 2015, and April 5, 2015, and are:
- under 1 year of age are too young to be vaccinated and may wish to seek out immune globulin from a health care provider.
- between 1 year to 40 years of age, and if never vaccinated for Hep A, may wish to seek out vaccination from a health care provider.
- 41 years old and older and never vaccinated for Hep A may wish to seek out immune globulin. Vaccine is not known to be effective in this group post-exposure.
Typical symptoms of Hepatitis A include, but are not limited to, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). As a matter of policy, employees at Subway use disposable gloves between customers and while preparing food, official said. These behaviors have likely reduced the risk of illness to the public. Nevertheless, individuals who have eaten at this Subway between March 25, 2015 and April 5, 2015, who are pregnant or have severe chronic illness (especially liver-related disease) are encouraged to consult with their doctor and consider the above treatment. The Conway County Health Unit at 100 Hospital Dr. in Morrilton will have immune globulin and Hepatitis A vaccine which can be administered upon request with an appointment on or after Wednesday, April 15. Anyone wishing to get one of these medicines from the health department can call (501) 354-4652 to make an appointment.
- At this time, no other Hepatitis A illnesses have been reported to the department. However, the virus can cause illness anytime from 2 to 7 weeks after exposure. If infected, most people will develop symptoms 3-4 weeks after exposure.
- Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person.
- Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms. The older a person is when they get Hepatitis A, typically the more severe symptoms they have.
- Almost all people who get Hepatitis A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months.
- Hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination. Hepatitis A vaccine has been recommended for school children for many years and, as of 2014, one dose of Hepatitis A vaccine is required for entry into kindergarten and first grade. Most adults are likely not vaccinated but may have been if they received vaccinations prior to international travel.