More Restaurants hit by Hepatitis A Problems

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For goodness sake, vaccinate – your employees!

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is warning of a possible hepatitis A (hep A) exposure after an employee of the Little Caesar’s Pizza, at 1731 West Kingshighway in Paragould, tested positive for the virus. Hep A is a contagious liver disease.

Anyone who ate at this facility from July 19 to August 2 should seek vaccination immediately if they have never been vaccinated against hep A or are unsure of their vaccination status. There are no specific treatments once a person gets hep A. Illness can be prevented even after exposure by getting the vaccine or medicine called immune globulin. This medicine contains antibodies to hep A and works best if given within two weeks of exposure to the virus.

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is warning of a possible hepatitis A (hep A) exposure after an employee of the Red Lobster, at 7401 Rogers Ave. in Fort Smith tested positive for the virus. Hep A is a contagious liver disease. This case appears to be related to travel outside of the state and is not thought to be part of the current hep A outbreak in Northeast Arkansas.

Anyone who ate at this facility from July 19 to August 4 should seek vaccination immediately if they have never been vaccinated against hep A or are unsure of their vaccination status. There are no specific treatments once a person gets hep A. Illness can be prevented even after exposure by getting the vaccine or medicine called immune globulin. This medicine contains antibodies to hep A. The vaccine and medicine work best if given within two weeks of exposure to the virus. However, if it has been more than two weeks since potential exposure but symptoms have not yet developed, the vaccine may still be given.

Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek care immediately. Typical symptoms of hep A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hep A virus, which is a different virus from the viruses that cause hep B or hep C. It is usually spread when a person ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person.

A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear. The virus can cause illness anytime from two to seven weeks after exposure. If infected, most people will develop symptoms three to four weeks after exposure. Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms. Almost all people who get hep A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months.

The older a person is when they get hep A, typically the more severe symptoms they have. Other risk factors for having more severe symptoms of hep A include having other infections or chronic diseases like hep B or C, HIV/AIDS or diabetes. Up to one in three adults are typically hospitalized. Death due to hep A is rare but is more likely in patients with other liver diseases (like hep B or C).

Hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination. Hepatitis A vaccine has been recommended for school children for many years and one dose of hep A vaccine is required for entry into kindergarten and first grade as of 2014. Most adults are likely not vaccinated but may have been if they received vaccinations prior to traveling internationally.

As I have said way too often, it seems that hardly a month passes without a warning from a health department somewhere that an infected food handler is the source of yet another potential hepatitis A outbreak. Absent vaccinations of food handlers, combined with an effective and rigorous hand washing policy, there will continue to be more hepatitis A outbreaks. It is time for health departments across the country to require vaccinations of foodservice workers, especially those that serve the very young and the elderly.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 83,000 cases of hepatitis A occur in the United States every year, and that many of these cases are related to food-borne transmission. In 1999, over 10,000 people were hospitalized due to hepatitis A infections and 83 people died. In 2003, 650 people became sickened, 4 died and nearly 10,000 people got Ig shots after eating at a Pennsylvania restaurant. Not only do customers get sick, but businesses lose customers or some simply go out of business.

Although the CDC has not yet called for mandatory vaccination of foodservice workers, it has repeatedly pointed out that the consumption of worker-contaminated food is a major cause of food-borne illness in the United States.

Marler says hepatitis A continues to be one of the most frequently reported, vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, despite the FDA-approval of hepatitis A vaccine in 1995. Widespread vaccination of appropriate susceptible populations would substantially lower disease incidence and potentially eliminate indigenous transmission of hepatitis A infections. Vaccinations cost about $50. The major economic reason that these preventative shots have not been used is because of the high turnover rate of foodservice employees. Eating out becomes a whole lot less of a gamble, if all foodservice workers faced the same requirement.

According to the CDC, the costs associated with hepatitis A are substantial. Between 11% and 22% of persons who have hepatitis A are hospitalized. Adults who become ill lose an average of 27 days of work. Health departments incur substantial costs in providing post-exposure prophylaxis to an average of 11 contacts per case.

Hepatitis A:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $650 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food.  The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Costco, Subway, McDonald’s, Red Robin, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr. We proudly represented the family of Donald Rockwell, who died after consuming hepatitis A tainted food and Richard Miller, who required a liver transplant after eating food at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant.

If you or a family member became ill with a Hepatitis A infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Hepatitis A attorneys for a free case evaluation.



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