- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Three dozen people have contracted hepatitis A amid a series of exposures in northeastern Arkansas this year, according to state health officials.

Last year, only seven cases were reported statewide.

The Arkansas Health Department issued a warning after a Jonesboro restaurant employee tested positive for hepatitis A, department spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said. The agency said anyone who ate at the Steak ‘n Shake on June 3 between 4 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. - and had never been vaccinated against the virus - should seek immediate care.

Department inspectors didn’t believe the restaurant’s food was involved in spreading the illness, Mirivel said.

“It’s unfortunate for the restaurant,” she said. “It’s no fault of theirs. Employees there all wear gloves when serving food and have hand-washing protocol.”

Mirivel said the employee had contracted hepatitis A by coming in contact with other food industry workers in the region who tested positive for the virus earlier this year.

The Craighead County Local Health Unit had already vaccinated more than 230 people before a free walk-in vaccination clinic Friday, the Jonesboro Sun reported .

The department declared an outbreak after 15 workers at three restaurants in Clay and Lawrence counties got the virus. A total of 36 people have contracted the virus as of Friday, according to the agency.

Hepatitis A symptoms develop between two and seven weeks after contact, according to the department. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine, and joint and abdominal pain.

Mirivel said it’s generally too late to receive vaccinations if a person is already experiencing symptoms of the virus.


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com

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