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Case of hepatitis A at Arkansas Taco Bell prompts state alert

Virus diagnosed in restaurant worker by Andy Davis | February 16, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

A worker at a Taco Bell in Corning, in northeastern Arkansas, was diagnosed Wednesday with hepatitis A, prompting state health officials to warn that some people who ate at the restaurant might have been exposed to the virus.

The alert follows reports in December and January of hepatitis A diagnosed in workers at two Huddle House restaurants in southeastern Missouri.

The Arkansas Department of Health is investigating whether the cases are related, spokesman Meg Mirivel said Thursday.

The department will hold special walk-in clinics at two Clay County health units starting today to provide vaccinations to people who ate at the Taco Bell at 200 N. Missouri Ave. in Corning on Feb. 2 or Feb. 5.

The clinics will be at the health units at 301 N. Missouri Ave. in Corning and 1009 S. Garfield Ave. in Piggott from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today, and at the Corning unit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 1-3 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, the department said in a news release.

People who ate at the Taco Bell on Feb. 2 or Feb. 5 and have never been vaccinated against hepatitis A should contact their doctors or attend one of the clinics, where the vaccine will be available, the department said.

The Taco Bell worker is one of three people whose hepatitis A diagnoses has been reported in Arkansas this year, Mirivel said. She said the department is investigating whether the cases are connected.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced in December that a worker at a Huddle House restaurant in Dexter, Mo., about 60 miles from Corning, had been diagnosed with hepatitis A and had handled food while potentially contagious in late November and early December.

Last month, the Missouri agency reported that a worker at a Huddle House in Poplar Bluff, Mo., about 30 miles from Corning, also had been diagnosed with hepatitis A and had handled food while potentially contagious in early January.

A spokesman for the Missouri agency told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last month that a link between the two Missouri cases had not been established. The agency didn't respond to an inquiry Thursday from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Hepatitis A affects the liver and is spread through fecal matter, the Arkansas Health Department said. It can cause illness two to seven weeks after exposure, with most people developing symptoms in three or four weeks.

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.

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

Hepatitis A vaccinations have been required for Arkansas children in day care, kindergarten and first grade since 2014.

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

Metro on 02/16/2018

Print Headline: Case of hepatitis A prompts state alert

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