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4 food service workers diagnosed with hepatitis A in Arkansas outbreak

by Andy Davis | April 21, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

State health officials are urging all food service workers in Clay County, as well as people who recently ate at one gas station in particular, to get vaccinated against hepatitis A amid an outbreak that has infected a dozen Arkansans since February.

The latest food service worker to be infected was an employee of a Subway and Flash Market gas station at 105 N. Missouri Ave. in Corning. The person was diagnosed Wednesday, State Epidemiologist Dirk Haselow said.

People who ate at the business between March 30 and Tuesday should seek care immediately if they haven't been vaccinated, the state Department of Health said in a news release.

Such care can be provided through vaccination or treatment with immune globulin, both of which can prevent illness after exposure to the virus, the department said.

The department will offer the vaccine at a walk-in clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 pm. today at the Clay County Local Health Unit in Corning.

The vaccine will also be available at the health unit from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, department spokesman Meg Mirivel said.

Since February, the gas station employee is the fourth food service worker to be diagnosed with the virus in the northeast Arkansas county. The virus affects the liver and spreads through fecal matter.

The first food service employee diagnosed with the infection in that area of the state worked at a Taco Bell in Corning. That case also prompted an alert.

The other food service workers who caught the virus did not work during the times when they were infectious, Haselow said.

To prevent more infections, Health Department staff members visited every "full-time primary" restaurant in the county this week, administering just under 100 vaccinations, he said.

"There are more food service workers in Clay County, and we would like them all to get vaccinated," Haselow said.

The outbreak is linked to several others around the country, including one in southeastern Missouri that has infected almost 100 people, he said.

Two other Arkansans have been diagnosed with hepatitis A in other parts of the state this year. Their infections were not related to the ones in Clay County, Haselow said.

According to the department, the virus can cause illness two to seven weeks after exposure, with most people developing symptoms in three or four weeks.

Typical symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain or jaundice, the department said.

About one in three adults who become infected must be hospitalized, the department said. Although they may feel sick for months, most people infected with hepatitis A will recover completely and will not have any lasting liver damage, the department said.

Hepatitis A vaccinations have been required for Arkansas children in day cares, kindergartens and first grades since 2014. Most adults are likely not vaccinated, although they may get vaccinations if they travel out of the country, the department said.

Health care providers reported seven cases in the state last year, 13 in 2016 and 10 in 2015, Mirivel said.

Metro on 04/21/2018

Print Headline: Hepatitis A outbreak found in Clay County


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