An estimated 2,000 residents of Salt Lake County in Utah could have been exposed to hepatitis A at a local 7-Eleven branch, health authorities warn.
Customers who entered the convenience store in West Jordan between December 26 and January 3 could be at risk if they either visited the restroom or ate certain foods purchased there, the Salt Lake County Health Department said.
Officials said, “The possible hepatitis A exposure occurred when an infected employee worked while ill and potentially handled certain items in the store.” This case is suspected to be connected to a larger hepatitis A outbreak in the county that has been going on since August, CNN reports.
People who used the 7-Eleven restroom, drank a fountain drink or ate fresh fruit or hot food from the shelf should contact the county health department for information on how to receive a preventive hepatitis A injection, according to the health department’s release. Prepackaged items do not pose the same danger.
As of Monday, 256 people had been told by the county to get an injection. The estimate of 2,000 is based on the specific store’s average sales volume.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver condition that is most often caused by transmission of the hepatitis A virus via food or drinking water handled by infected persons. The disease can also be caused by sex and illegal drug use.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue and fever, and can take between 15 to 50 days to start appearing. The virus is notoriously difficult to kill and can live for months outside the human body.
Gary Edwards, Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director, said,
This is an important reminder to food service establishments that they should consider vaccinating their food-handling employees against hepatitis A.
He added, “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.”
The 7-Eleven branch in question has since been sanitized, and the store is cooperating with a health investigation.