State and county officials across the country continue to alert the public about possible exposure to Hepatitis A from foodservice employees who have worked while infected with the virus. Two of the most recent warnings come from Arkansas and Indiana.
The lab-confirmed cases among restaurant employees are among more than 1,200 in a multi-state outbreak that has killed more than 40 people. People are usually infected and capable of spreading the virus before they develop symptoms. For some people the virus is “self-limiting” and they recover. For others it can develop into a serious liver infection that can cause life-long problems and sometimes death.
Foods and beverages can become contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus when microscopic amounts of feces are transferred from an infected person’s hands. The virus can survive on surfaces. Freezing foods or beverages that are contaminated with Hepatitis A does not kill the virus.
Handwashing is one of the most effective means of preventing the spread of Hepatitis A, especially for people who are preparing or serving foods or beverages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is a two-week window of opportunity after exposure for unvaccinated people to receive the Hepatitis A vaccine. After two weeks, the post-exposure vaccine is not effective.
It can take up to 50 days for symptoms of Hepatitis A infection to develop.
Typical symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Arkansas restaurant exposures
The Arkansas Department of Health is reporting a case of Hepatitis A in an employee of the Flash Market/Subway at 105 North Missouri Avenue in Corning.
Anyone who ate at this facility between March 30 and April 17 should seek care immediately if they have never been vaccinated against Hepatitis A or are unsure of their vaccine status.
So far this year, 12 cases of Hepatitis A have been reported in Clay County, with four of them involving foodservice workers. Consequently, state health department is recommending that all foodservice workers in Clay County be vaccinated. The ADH has been working with local restaurants and food service facilities on this vaccination effort.
“This rise in cases is concerning,” said Dr. Dirk Haselow, State Epidemiologist. “… If you experience symptoms, visit your healthcare provider.”
Indiana Taco Bell exposure
Health officials in Floyd County, IN, report a case of Hepatitis A has been confirmed in an employee of the Taco Bell restaurant at 900 Lafollette Center in Floyds Knobs.
Anyone who has eaten at the restaurant between April 1 and April 18 should get the Hepatitis A vaccine before April 30 to reduce the chance of infection, according to county officials.