An employee at a restaurant and a senior living facility in Erie County, NY, who was infected with hepatitis A while working exposed hundreds of people to the highly contagious virus and there is very limited time for them to seek post-exposure vaccinations.
It is already past the treatment deadline for some patrons of Al-e-oops Restaurant in Lancaster and residents, their visitors and staff of Brookdale Senior Living in Williamsville. If not given within two weeks of exposure, the vaccination is not effective.
Erie County officials did not specify whether the strain of the virus isolated from the sick worker is the same that is responsible for a nationwide outbreak that has sickened more than 1,200 people, killing more than 40.
The exposure periods for the people who dined at or had carry-out from Al-e-oops are Jan. 20-23 and 27-30. For Brookdale residents and their guests, the exposure period was Jan. 16-31.
A free post-exposure vaccination clinic is scheduled today for Al-e-oops Restaurant customers according to statements during a Tuesday afternoon news conference with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.
The public officials said residents, guests and staff of the Brookdale facility should contact management there for information about whether they should receive post-exposure treatment.
Anyone who was at the restaurant or senior living facility during the exposure periods and has developed symptoms of hepatitis A infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure.
Also, because it can take up to 50 days for symptoms to develop, anyone who was at either of the locations during the exposure periods should monitor themselves for symptoms in the coming weeks.
Symptoms can include fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, darkening of the urine, clay-colored stool, or yellowing of the eyes and skin. Some people who are infected do not develop symptoms.
People at highest risk of serious infections include the elderly, pregnant women and people with suppressed immune systems, such as cancer patients, organ transplant recipients or others with serious illnesses.
The free county vaccinations for Al-e-oops customers are available from 3-8 p.m. at the Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Association, Station No. 1, at 36 Main Street in Bowmansville. Only those who consumed food or beverages from Al-e-oops from Jan. 27-30 are eligible for the free vaccinations.
County officials ask that anyone who develops symptoms of hepatitis A to call the Erie County Department of Health at 716-858-2929. More information is available at the county website at www.erie.gov.
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