A 7-Eleven in Salt Lake City Utah may have spread hepatitis A to as many as 2000 residents, according to local health officials.
A press release from the Salt Lake County Health Department notified 7-Eleven customers in West Jordan that they may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus and to contact the department as soon as possible to receive an inoculation. Hepatitis A infects the liver and is spread most often by consuming contaminated food or drink.
"The possible hepatitis A exposure occurred when an infected employee worked while ill and potentially handled certain items in the store,” reads the press release. Customers who purchased certain food items or used the restroom between December 26 and January 3 are at risk of infection.
Packaged or sealed food items are safe, but anyone who purchased a “fountain drink or other self-serve beverage, fresh fruit,” or “any item from the store’s hot food case, such as pizza, hot dogs, chicken wings, or taquitos” has been exposed.
It’s believed that the current outbreak is part of a larger hepatitis A outbreak that has been ongoing since August.
"People in need of prophylaxis must receive it within a short time period of their possible exposure, so it is essential that affected customers call the health department as soon as possible," says the health department. So far, 256 residents have been referred for vaccinations.
Speaking to local news, Gary Edwards of the Salt Lake County Health Department issued a stern warning on Sunday: "Those who may have been in there on the 26th have until this coming Tuesday to be vaccinated, so we wanted to get the word out so the public can take action.
"It's also important the food handlers be conscientious with hygiene, hand washing and not working when ill - and that managers be vigilant in enforcing those important requirements that protect public health."
Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver. Unlike its deadlier cousins hepatitis C or B, most can expect to fully recover from hepatitis A after a prolonged period of illness which can sometimes last up to six months. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, jaundice, diarrhea, and vomiting.