Health department announces hepatitis A case in Seymour

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The Jackson County Health Department today confirmed a case of hepatitis A in a fast-food employee in Seymour.

Officials said a drive-through employee worked while ill at Taco Bell, 1509 E. Tipton St., on Nov. 13 and 14, according to a news release from the health department.

The department is planning a clinic to administer the hepatitis A vaccine from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the American Legion Annex, 400 W. Second St., Seymour.

Only those who consumed food or drinks from the drive-through on the specified dates are eligible for the vaccine. A call line also has been set up, and individuals should not call the department’s main line.

The vaccine includes one shot, and then another six months later.

“We are encouraging people to check their immunization records, check with their doctors, but if they feel they weren’t protected and were there with the drive-through on those days to come ahead and go to our clinic,” said Lin Montgomery, the health department’s public health coordinator.

Vaccines also are available at CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens, which will be billed to health insurance.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, stomach pain, brown-colored urine and light-colored stool. Yellowing of the skin or eyes also may appear.

It usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food and drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.

The department said in a release that it’s relatively rare for customers to become infected with hepatitis A virus due to an infected employee, but anyone who utilized the drive-through on those dates is encouraged to receive a vaccination. Customers who used the lobby were not affected, Montgomery said.

Individuals can become ill up to seven weeks after being exposed to the virus.

Taco Bell is working with the department to prevent any new cases, according to the news release.

“Taco Bell has been very supportive and helpful,” Montgomery said.

The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase risk of infection. Not all infected people will exhibit the same symptoms with some, especially children, not showing them at all.

All infected people can transmit the disease to others.

Hospitals are required by law to report positive hepatitis A cases to local health departments. Departments then conduct investigations, confirm reports and communicate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and wait for a recommendation.

Montgomery said sometimes, the CDC will not make a recommendation if the case is not a threat to the general public.

This case prompted officials to believe there was a risk of the public becoming infected.

“This one they decided was a possible risk for a larger population, so their recommendation was to set up a point of dispensing,” Montgomery said. “We are going to notify the people that used the drive-through only.”

Look for this story in Thursday’s edition of The Tribune.

Clinic planned

If you consumed food or drinks from the drive-through at Taco Bell, 1509 E. Tipton St., Seymour, on Nov. 13 or 14, you are encouraged to receive a hepatitis A vaccine.

What: Jackson County Health Department hepatitis A vaccine for affected individuals

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28

Where: American Legion Annex, 400 W. Second St., Seymour

What to do

Those who consumed food from the Taco Bell drive-through Nov. 13 and 14 should:

1. Monitor symptoms of hepatitis A infection up to 50 days after exposure.

2. Wash hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food.

3. Stay at home and contact their health care provider immediately if symptoms of hepatitis A develop.

Call the health department’s Hepatitis A hotline with questions at 812-569-0854.

Do not call the regular office number.