Another case of hepatitis A has been confirmed in a food handler who worked while potentially contagious at a Huddle House restaurant in Missouri.

Everyone who ate at the Huddle House restaurant in Poplar Bluff, MO, between Jan. 3 and Jan. 17 is advised to ask their doctors about what post-exposure steps they can take to prevent illness. Huddle House customers who ate or drank anything from the restaurant during this time period should seek medical care if they have symptoms of hepatitis A.

It can take up to 50 days for symptoms to develop. A post-exposure vaccine is available, but it is only effective if administered within two weeks of exposure, according to state and federal public health officials

The restaurant operators are working with the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services and the Butler County Health Department to investigate the situation and are taking necessary control measures to decrease the spread of the illness.

Previously, a case of Hepatitis A was identified in a food handler who worked while potentially contagious at a Huddle House restaurant in Dexter, MO. That restaurant’s operators are also working with the state health department as well as the Stoddard County Health Center to investigate the situation. The restaurant management has taken necessary control measures to decrease the risk of spreading the illness, according to public health officials.

Members of the public who ate at the Dexter, MO, Huddle House between Nov. 21, 2017, and Dec. 2, 2017, should watch for symptoms of hepatitis A and seek medical care if they have symptoms. Symptoms usually develop between two and seven weeks after exposure, according to the CDC, and can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and/or eyes

With concurrent outbreaks occurring across the nation, pre- and post exposure vaccines  are in limited supply. Therefore, their use has been restricted in some areas of the country, where people at highest risk for illness or complications are receiving treatment before otherwise healthy adults.

One multi-state outbreak has sickened more than 1,200 people. Several restaurant employees in cities across the country have been confirmed with that outbreak strain, causing tens of thousands of people to seek post exposure treatment.

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death; this is more common in people older than 50 and in people with other liver diseases.

Hepatitis A is spread when a person swallows the virus, which can be present on objects or in food or drinks contaminated by microscopic amounts of feces from an infected person. The best way to keep from getting sick from hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. Hepatitis A vaccine is highly effective when administered properly.

However, because vaccines may be limited at this time in some areas because of the nationwide outbreak, good hand washing practices are even more important than usual to prevent hepatitis A from spreading, according to advice from the CDC. Washing hands after going to the bathroom and changing diapers, as well as before preparing or eating food, can help keep the virus from spreading to uninfected people.

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