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Up to 2,000 people possibly exposed to hepatitis A at Utah 7-Eleven

Health officials are warning that more than 2,000 people might have been exposed to hepatitis A at a 7-Eleven in West Jordan, Utah  and should get a preventative injection, CBS affiliate KUTV reports.

The Salt Lake County Health Department is urging customers who used the restroom or consumed certain items at the 7-Eleven location at 2666 West 7800 South to contact the health department immediately at 385-468-INFO (4636).

The preventive injection recommendation is for customers who visited the store on any date from Tuesday, December 26, through Wednesday, January 3, and who used any restroom in the store or consumed any of the following items:

  • Fountain drink or other self-serve beverage
  • Fresh fruit
  • Any item from the store's hot food case, such as pizza, hot dogs, chicken wings, or taquitos

"Packaged items, including bottled beverages and microwaved foods, are NOT implicated in the possible exposure. Customers who consumed only packaged or bottled items do not need to contact the health department. Customers who are fully vaccinated (two doses) against hepatitis A also do not need to contact the health department," according to the health department.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus that affects the liver. According to the CDC, it can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. In rare cases, it can be fatal. "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 CDC explains.

The 385-468-INFO (4636) phone number will be staffed beginning Monday, January 8 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Health department staff will screen callers for their exposure risk and provide them with options for receiving a prophylactic hepatitis A vaccine.

According to the Health Department:

People in need of prophylaxis must receive it within a short time period of their possible exposure, so it is essential that affected customers call the health department as soon as possible. Based on average sales volume for this store, health officials estimate up to 2,000 customers may be affected.

The possible exposure happened when an infected employee worked while ill and handled certain items in the store.

The health department believes this case is linked to the ongoing hepatitis outbreak in Salt Lake County since August 2017. Earlier this month, officials reported 118 cases in the outbreak among Salt Lake City's homeless population.

7-Eleven is cooperating fully with the health department's investigation and response and, since discovering the possible exposure, has sanitized the affected store according to health department recommendations.

"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 (SLCoHD). "It's also important that food handlers be conscientious with hygiene, hand washing and not working when ill—and that managers be vigilant in enforcing those important requirements that help protect public health."

Hepatitis A vaccine is covered by most insurance plans and is widely available at local pharmacies, health care providers, and SLCoHD immunization clinics. Call 385-468-SHOT (7468) for an appointment at a health department immunization clinic.

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