Hepatitis A Report at California Grocery Store Sparks Dire Warning

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) is investigating after an employee at a Whole Foods Market in Beverly Hills tested positive for hepatitis A.

Health officials recommend that customers who purchased seafood at the counter where the employee worked get vaccinated against hepatitis A if they are not already immunized. The warning is for any customer who purchased products at the seafood counter between April 20 and May 13.

“People who have not received the hepatitis A vaccine or who have previously been infected with hepatitis A may not be protected against the virus,” said a statement from the Ministry of Health. “Receiving the vaccine as soon as possible after exposure could help reduce the risk of developing hepatitis A infection.”

Signage is displayed on a display of fresh salmon at the Whole Foods Market in Lafayette, California on August 28, 2017. Los Angeles County health officials are advising some people to receive a hepatitis A vaccine. .

Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Whole Foods in question is located at 239 North Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills, California. No additional cases of hepatitis A have been reported, but an investigation is underway, DPH said.

According to authorities, hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection triggered by the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms may include fatigue and sudden weakness, nausea, abdominal pain, clay or gray stools, dark urine or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. The DPH said in its release that mild illnesses can last a few weeks, while more severe cases last several months. In rare cases, hepatitis A can also lead to death.

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“Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated with small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person,” the release said.

Although there is no specific antiviral treatment for hepatitis A, officials said “prompt vaccination is likely to prevent infection” in patients. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems may also benefit from receiving immunoglobulins in addition to a vaccine.

“While prompt vaccination is likely to prevent infection, infection may occur in those who are vaccinated too late,” officials added. “Clients who develop symptoms should call their provider and request a hepatitis A test.”

News week I contacted DPH for additional information via email late Friday evening.

Health officials earlier this week reported an outbreak of hepatitis A among Los Angeles County’s homeless population. According to a statement released Monday by the department, authorities detected the first case of hepatitis A in mid-March. At the time of broadcast, the virus had infected at least five other people.