Wednesday, January 17, 2018 by Michelle Simmons
About 2,000 7-Eleven customers in Salt Lake County, Utah are at risk of hepatitis A due to an employee coming to work when they were still sick. Officials of Salt Lake County warned residents on Jan. 7 that anyone who went to the store in West Jordan between Dec. 26, 2017 and Jan. 3, 2018 and used the restroom there, or consumed certain food and drinks may be at risk for hepatitis A exposure. The certain food and drink items include fountain drinks or other self-serve drinks, fresh fruits, or hot food items, such as pizza, hot dogs, chicken wings, or taquitos. On the other hand, those who bought items such as bottled beverages or packed foods are not at risk for hepatitis A exposure.
Although there are no additional confirmed cases of the disease as a result of exposure in the convenience store, Utah is one of the states that is affected by the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in the U.S. which recurred and spread in 2017. Other affected states mainly include California, Kentucky, and Michigan. Over 150 cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed by Utah health officials since January of last year, according to a report by Fox 13 News on Jan. 13. (Related: Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego has officials washing streets and extending public restroom hours as the disease infects hundreds.)
“With this outbreak we’ve had 60 percent, or thereabouts, being hospitalized from hepatitis A, so usually it’s 20-30 percent that end up being hospitalized,” Director of Nurses for Utah County Health Department Steven Mickelson told Fox 13 News.
Hepatitis A is a highly communicable disease that is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infected person as well as needle sharing. In addition, hepatitis A is linked to unsafe water or food, improper sanitation, and poor personal hygiene. The disease affects the liver which can cause mild to severe illness. It does not cause chronic liver disease unlike hepatitis B and C. However, it can cause acute liver failure which is often fatal.
A person who is infected by the virus may experience signs and symptoms such as fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice. These signs and symptoms typically last for two months or less, but 10 to 15 percent of symptomatic individuals have prolonged or relapsing disease for up to six months. These signs and symptoms are seen more often in adults than children.
There are several ways on how to reduce your risk of spreading or acquiring the HAV. To avoid infection from the virus, it is important to practice good personal hygiene. This can be done by washing hands after using the bathroom, before handling food or eating, when you come in contact with an infected person’s blood, stools, or other bodily fluid.
Moreover, refrain from the following: drinking water that may not be clean, eating raw vegetables or unwashed fruits, consuming dairy products, eating sliced fruits that may have been washed in contaminated water, or buying foods from street vendors. Boiling water for at least one minute is the best way to eliminate hepatitis A if no water is available. In addition, heating food should be hot when touched and must be eater immediately.
Read more stories on hepatitis A and other viral infections at Outbreak.news.