Infected restaurant worker spurs hepatitis A alert in Alabama

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A pizza restaurant in Alabama is working with the state Department of Public Health, after discovering that one of the restaurant’s food handlers is infected with hepatitis A.

The health department (ADPH) has contacted many customers of Marco’s Pizza in Anniston, AL, directly regarding the highly contagious virus, according to a news release. Post-exposure treatment is available, but must be administered within two weeks of exposure to be effective.

“As a preventative measure, ADPH is suggesting customers who consumed food, whether by pickup or delivery, between the dates of Sept. 26 through Oct. 2 be identified,” according to the health department release.

“These patrons may need the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin to reduce their chance of illness.”

The implicated restaurant, Marco’s Pizza, is in Anniston, which is on Interstate 20 about 60 miles east of Birmingham, AL. The chain is based out of Ohio and has 800 stores in more than 30 states, the Bahamas, India and Puerto Rico, according to the company’s website.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that can be transmitted person-to-person and by eating food or drinks prepared by an infected person. It is not spread through coughs or sneezes. Anyone who has hepatitis A can spread it to others for one to two weeks before symptoms appear.

Frequent hand-washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom and before handling food or eating can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Appropriately cooking food can also help prevent infection. Freezing does not kill the virus.

Dr. Burnestine Taylor, medical officer for Alabama Disease Control and Prevention, said in the release that adults with hepatitis A may have symptoms that include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice. Symptoms usually resolve within two months of infection if the infected person was healthy to begin with and not in a high-risk group.

“Children less than 6 years of age generally do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Almost all people who get hepatitis A recover completely,” according to Alabama health officials.

The ADPH is urging anyone who ate food prepared at Marco’s Pizza in Anniston between Sept. 26 through Oct. 2 to contact their health care provider, pharmacy, or the Calhoun County Health Department to get the post-exposure vaccine as soon as possible.

“You may also contact your local provider if you are uncertain about your past vaccine status,” the department advises.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is by receiving the vaccine within the first two weeks after exposure. People 50 years or older and those with liver diseases are more at risk for hepatitis A to cause severe illness.

Also, people who have previously been vaccinated with one dose of hepatitis A vaccine need a second dose. Two doses are required to provide protection from future exposures.

For more information about hepatitis A, visit the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention website.

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