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Health Department: Hepatitis A exposure possible at Subway in Morrilton

by Danielle Kloap | April 14, 2015 at 11:03 a.m.

Patrons of a Subway restaurant in Morrilton have been advised to seek preventative treatment after an employee tested positive for Hepatitis A, the Arkansas Department of Health announced Tuesday.

Exposure to Hepatitis A could have occurred between March 25 and April 5 at the Subway located at 1812 Arkansas 9, a news release from the Department of Health states.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease virus that is spread through human feces, Arkansas State Epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow said.

"Like many diseases, the [Hepatitis A] virus is shared in stool in very high levels," Haselow said. "If there was any break in hygiene when using the restroom, a food preparer could transfer it to the food."

Because Subway instructs employees to use a new pair of gloves each time they prepare food for a customer, Haselow said the risk of spreading the virus was low.

"So far this is the only case we have related to this [exposure]," Haselow said. "This is the first time in roughly a decade we've had an infected food worker."

Symptoms of the virus include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain or jaundice, the news release states.

Haselow said Hepatitis A infections are not common and there have only been 10 cases in the state in the last couple of years.

The Department of Health was alerted about the Subway employee's case Monday and will deliver preventative vaccines and a medicine called immune globulin, which contains Hepatitis A antibodies, to the Conway County Health Unit, Haselow said.

There is no specific treatment once a person contracts the disease, but Haselow those who visited the restaurant between the exposure dates should visit the health unit, located at 100 Hospital Drive in Morrilton. Those who are pregnant or who have underlying medical issues should especially seek treatment, Haselow said.

The department will be monitoring potential Hepatitis A exposure from Subway for another month and a half because of the virus' long incubation period of seven weeks, Haselow said.

Information about the Subway employee, particularly how that person contracted the virus, could not be released, Haselow said.

A call for comment to the Subway restaurant's manager was not immediately returned.


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