Hepatitis A exposure possible at food pantry amid outbreak

Data from MDHHS  Michigan Radio

Most people get sick within 15 days to 50 days after they are exposed to the virus.

The outbreak there began in August 2016 and, after a dropoff during the winter, continued to climb past year, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

While Michigan's outbreak has been linked to those higher-risk groups, it isn't strongly tied to any one of them, and nearly 40% of cases is made up of people with no known risk factors. A two-shot hepatitis A vaccine has been shown to be more than 99 percent effective in preventing the disease. Contact the health department, your healthcare provider for the vaccine.

The outbreak can be traced to transient camps and illicit drug users in San Diego, officials say. Though the virus has spread across the state, San Diego has seen the most deaths: 21, out of a reported 686 cases. Further outbreaks in Colorado and Arizona have also been linked to the San Diego epidemic. Health officials are estimating that as many as 2000 customers may have visited that 7-Eleven location within that time range. California officials have said the San Diego epidemic has eased but is not over yet.

Officials said 7-Eleven is cooperating with the health department's investigation and has sanitized the store. "We are seeing similar hospitalization rates as San Diego, about 60%, but we have fortunately not seen any deaths". Customers who visited the store between December 26 and January 3, and consumed a self-serve beverage, fresh fruit, or any item from the hot food case, or used the store's restroom, have been advised to contact the health department to determine their exposure risk and receive information about a vaccination to prevent hepatitis A. Packaged foods are not affected, according to the Health Department.

Tolman-Hill said the Utah County Health Department was using social media to get the word out.

Officials say an employee worked at the store between December 26 and January 3 while ill and potentially handled certain items in the store.

The state of Utah has confirmed 152 total cases as part of this outbreak; no deaths have been reported.

"Hepatitis A is a virus that targets the liver and causes a constellation of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice", infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the John's Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells SELF. This warning only applies to people who came into contact with or took food that is not canned.

After exposure, symptoms do not appear for two to four weeks, but infected individuals are able to pass the virus before symptoms appear. The disease inflames the liver, and can occasionally be deadly.

According to the CDC, the hepatitis A virus is very hard to kill and can live for months outside the body.

The good news is that Hepatitis A is preventable through proper sanitation practices, vaccination and good hand washing.

Investigators from several U.S. states are struggling with hepatitis A outbreaks that have been springing up across the country. However, the current vaccine is effective against all strains of the virus.

The current outbreaks of hepatitis A, virus genotype IB, is normally not found in the U.S.; it's more common to the Mediterranean, Turkey and South Africa.

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