HEALTH

Hepatitis A Outbreak: 2,000 People Possibly Exposed To Virus At Utah 7-Eleven

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Hepatitis A Outbreak: 2,000 People Possibly Exposed To Virus At Utah 7-Eleven

An estimated 2,000 Salt Lake County, Utah residents could have been exposed to hepatitis A at a local 7-Eleven store, local health officials warned.

The customers who used the restroom or consumed certain food items at the 7-Eleven location at 2666 West 7800 South between December 26 and January 3 could be at risk, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.

"The possible hepatitis A exposure occurred when an infected employee worked while ill and potentially handled certain items in the store," the department said on Sunday.

The health department has urged the customers who used the restroom or consumed a fountain drink, fresh fruit, or food from the hot food case — except prepackaged items – to contact the health department immediately at 385-468-INFO (4636).

About 256 people have already turned up to get an injection, CNN affiliate KSTU reported.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus and affects the liver.

"Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person," the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains.

Its symptoms are nausea, vomiting, fever, and fatigue, which generally take 15 to 50 days to appear. Hepatitis A can’t be easily cured and be fatal in rare cases.

"This is an important reminder to food service establishments that they should consider vaccinating their food-handling employees against hepatitis A," said Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

"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," he added.

The local 7-Eleven has since been sanitized and cooperating with the health department to investigate.

"The health and safety of our customers is our top priority," 7-Eleven said in a statement. "We are working closely with the Salt Lake County Health Department."

The store also confirmed that all employees had received a hepatitis A vaccine from the Salt Lake County Health Department.

The case is believed to be linked to a wider hepatitis A outbreak that began last August in the region.

Hepatitis A has also been troubling other cities. San Diego has witnessed a deadliest outbreak of hepatitis A in decades that already killed 14 people since November.

Photo credit: OBRag.org