Five people have contracted hepatitis A infections in Seneca County, New York after two food workers were diagnosed with the illness in that area in November 2015. One of those workers was at Mark’s Pizzeria at 1963 Kingdom Plaza in Waterloo, and the other was at the McDonald’s at 2500 Mound Road in Waterloo.
County health officials say those sickened did not eat at the restaurants, but were close contacts of the sick employees.
The announcement of the sick McDonald’s worker was made on November 14, 2015. The announcement of the ill worker at Mark’s Pizzeria was made on December 2, 2015.
Anyone who consumed cold foods, such as subs, salads, vegetables, lemons, and celery sticks from Mark’s Pizzeria on November 19, 2015 through November 28 2015; and people who have had close personal contacts with a confirmed case should monitor themselves for the symptoms of the illness. It’s now too late to get either the hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccinations, which are only effective if given within two weeks of exposure. If you ate at that restaurant during those dates and did not get a vaccination, you are at risk.
The symptoms of a hepatitis A infection will appear within two to six weeks after exposure. Those symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice. If you do develop these symptoms, see your healthcare provider.
Hepatitis A clinics were held by the Seneca County Health Department in early December. If you did get a shot at one of those clinics, you will need a second dose of the hepatitis A vaccine in six months to achieve full immunity.
People with liver disease and impaired liver function can become seriously ill if infected with hepatitis A. The illness can impair proper functioning of the liver.
The virus is very contagious. It is spread person-to-person, through common contact with a surface, and through contaminated food and drink via the “fecal-oral” route. That means that a tiny amount of feces, even a microscopic amount, contaminates the ill person’s hands and gets into food or onto surfaces. The illness is most easily spread when good personal hygiene is not observed.
Hepatitis A is shed in high amounts one to three weeks before any symptoms of the illness begin. That’s what makes it so difficult to prevent. After jaundice appears, the person will continue to shed the virus, but in lower amounts.
To prevent the spread of this illness, it’s important to wash your hands very well with soap and water after using the bathroom, after changing diapers, and after caring for anyone who is ill. The illness can also be spread through sexual contact and through sharing of needles.
Most people recover fully after this infection, although they may feel ill for some time. Others may be so ill they must be hospitalized. Symptoms usually last less than two months, but some people can feel sick as long as 6 months. Anyone with this illness should stay home until cleared by a doctor, especially if they work in the food or health care industry or in schools or day care centers.