For the past several days, nurses and staff from the Mecklenburg County Health Department and the Cabarrus Health Alliance have worked side by side vaccinating close to 1700 people potentially exposed to hepatitis A.
A worker at the Papa John’s Pizza location at 8016 Cambridge Commons Drive was recently diagnosed with hepatitis A and had worked several days at the restaurant before the diagnosis. Due to the location of the pizza shop -- near the Mecklenburg/Cabarrus county line -- health department officials from both counties, in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, swung into action and quickly formulated a response.
Monday marks the fourth and final consecutive day of open clinics, and the number of residents coming to obtain the hepatitis A vaccine continues to decline. Beginning Tuesday, April 15, anyone who has not received the vaccine and wishes to get it may come to the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s Beatties Ford Road location from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
“We are very pleased with the excellent participation in the weekend hepatitis A vaccination event. This is public health at its best working 24-7 to protect the public’s health. We also want to express our thanks to the Cabarrus Health Alliance and Central Piedmont Community College for their invaluable assistance,” said Mecklenburg County Health Director Dr. Marcus Plescia. “Our thanks also to Papa John’s for their response and cooperation.”
It’s important for anyone who feels they may have been exposed to get vaccinated as soon as possible as the time for the vaccine to be effective runs out 14 days after exposure. Those who have had a hepatitis A infection or hepatitis A vaccine are protected from the virus and do not need to take additional actions. Most children receive hepatitis A as part of the recommended vaccine series.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis vaccine is very effective in reducing the risk of the disease when administered within 14 days of the last day of exposure. The disease is usually spread by eating or drinking items that have been contaminated with the virus or by close personal contact with an infected person. Symptoms appear 2 to 7 weeks after exposure, and commonly include fever, a feeling of being unwell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal discomfort; urine may become darker in color and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) may appear. If you have these symptoms, you should seek medical care.
Some people (especially children) may not develop jaundice, and may have an illness so mild that it could go unnoticed. However, even mildly ill persons can still be highly infectious. While it can be avoided if the vaccine is given within two weeks of exposure, there is no specific treatment once a person has hepatitis A. Most people recover without complications after several weeks. People who have existing liver problems can be extremely ill if they contract hepatitis A. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor.
Careful hand-washing is the key to preventing the spread of hepatitis A, and should include vigorous washing of hands with soap and running water for a minimum of 20 seconds. All surfaces should be washed, including the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. This is especially important after using the washroom and before handling food. Anyone who may have been exposed is strongly encouraged to follow this practice to reduce the risk of spreading illness to others.
For more information, please call the Mecklenburg County Health Department at (980) 314-0950. For general information see http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/A/index.htm.
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Media Contact: Rick Christenbury at 704-577-2587 or Rick.Christenbury@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov