Hepatitis A warning released

The St. Francois County Health Center in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is investigating a case of Hepatitis A in a food handler who worked while potentially contagious at Country Mart deli in Bonne Terre.

Country Mart is cooperating with local and state health officials in the ongoing investigation and is taking necessary control measures to decrease the spread of the illness.

Members of the public who purchased food from the Bonne Terre Country Mart deli between March 21 and April 4 should seek medical care if they have symptoms of Hepatitis A. 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.

Typical symptoms of Hepatitis 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). Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus.

It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear.

Hep A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person. Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms.

The older a person is when they get Hep A, typically the more severe symptoms they have. Almost all people who get Hep A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months.

Hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination. If given within two weeks of exposure, according to the specific CDC guidelines for prophylaxis, vaccine or immune globulin (IG) can prevent illness. With concurrent outbreaks occurring across the nation, vaccine and IG are in limited supply. Therefore, use of these prevention strategies must be restricted to those at highest risk for illness or complications.

The best way to keep from getting sick from Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. Hepatitis A vaccine is highly effective when administered properly. Because vaccines may be limited at this time, however, good handwashing practices are even more important than usual to prevent Hepatitis A from spreading. Washing hands after going to the bathroom and changing diapers and before preparing or eating food helps keep the virus from spreading to uninfected people.

For more information on Hepatitis A visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at: www.cdc.gov.

Members of the public or providers with patients who are concerned about a potential exposure can call St. Francois County Health Center at 573-431-1947.

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