More than 1,000 vaccinated as hepatitis A strikes Virginia

Published: Dec. 9, 2019 at 12:51 PM EST
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A confirmed case of hepatitis A in a Virginia restaurant worker prompted a health division to launch a public vaccination effort for the first time this year as the state fights its outbreak status.

More than 1,000 people were vaccinated in southwest Virginia on Thursday and Friday, the Bristol Herald Courier reported. The Virginia Department of Public Health announced last week that an employee at Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen in Bristol had been diagnosed with the virus.

An employee at NHC Healthcare Bristol was also recently diagnosed, WCYB-TV reported. Patients and employees at the nursing home were vaccinated and officials say there is no threat to the public from the case.

“We certainly are dealing with hepatitis A cases daily,” said Mount Rogers Health Division medical director Dr. Karen Shelton. She says more than 5,000 vaccines for the virus have been administered by the district since May.

The district's population health manager says not all of the people who were vaccinated last week ate at the restaurant when customers may have been exposed Nov. 16-17. Breanne Forbes Hubbard says many people who got the vaccine said they eat out regularly and were generally concerned about protecting themselves from the virus.

Health officials say the hepatitis A virus can cause fever, nausea, jaundice and other symptoms, which can take about two to seven weeks to develop. Exposure can happen through contact with an infected person on by consuming food or drink that is contaminated.

“In this case, we had two employees who were working without knowledge of being infected and then all of a sudden they had symptoms but by the very nature of this disease, they had already been contagious for two weeks,” Shelton said.

Virginia was named an outbreak state for hepatitis A in April, according to the health department. State data show there have been 250 confirmed cases across the state this year, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.