Officials in Australia have issued a health alert after two hepatitis A cases were recently linked to a café.

The Department of Health in the state of Victoria said there was a risk of further locally acquired cases being reported in the coming weeks. No information was provided about the patients or if illness was caused by a contaminated food or food handler.

People who had food from Creatures of Habit café in the city of Springvale in Melbourne were advised to be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis A infection.

The café is located in the Springvale Homemaker Centre. A clean-up of the restaurant has been undertaken and there is no longer a risk to the public, according to officials. There are no other venues at the center implicated.

Anyone who ate at the restaurant between March 25 and April 8 should be on the lookout for symptoms for up to 50 days from exposure and seek medical attention if unwell, said Christian McGrath, acting chief health officer.

Hepatitis A is an urgent notifiable condition in the state and must be reported by medical practitioners and pathology services by telephone upon initial diagnosis.

The latest data on hepatitis A in Australia shows there were 121 cases acquired in the country in 2017. Victoria was the worst affected state with 53 cases. One outbreak was caused by imported frozen berries and 11 people were sickened.

About hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. Symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, fever and stomach pains, followed by dark urine, pale stools and jaundice. Handwashing and good hygiene practices are important to prevent transmission as well as vaccination.

The incubation period is between 15 to 50 days, with an average of 28 days. The virus is spread by the fecal-oral route, usually by consuming contaminated food or water or through contaminated hands or objects. People are infectious from two weeks prior to symptom onset until one week after the onset of jaundice or dark urine. This means they may transmit the infection before knowing they are infected.

Illness is usually mild and lasts one to three weeks. Most people recover but hepatitis A can lead to hospitalization and severe illness, particularly in people with chronic liver disease. Young children who are infected usually have few or no symptoms but can still transmit infection to others.

Officials also told people not to go to work if they had symptoms consistent with hepatitis A infection, particularly if they are a food handler, childcare worker or healthcare employee.

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