Hepatitis A is a communicable (or contagious) disease. The virus is transmitted by the “fecal – oral route,” (human feces gets into your mouth) generally from person-to-person, or via contaminated food or water.

Outbreaks, like the one at the Milan, Illinois McDonalds, associated with food have been increasingly implicated as a significant source of Hepatitis A infection. Such outbreaks are usually associated with contamination of food during preparation by a Hepatitis A-infected food handler.

Food contaminated with the virus is a common vehicle transmitting hepatitis A. The food preparer or cook is the individual most often contaminating the food. He or she is generally not ill: the peak time of infectivity (i.e., when the most virus is present in the stool of an infectious individual) is during the 2 weeks before illness begins to be noticeable.

The incubation period (time from exposure to onset of symptoms) is 15-50 days, with an average of 30 days.  Thus far at least 25 people have contracted Hepatitis A and over 10,000 or more were exposed.  5,000 have received IG or Hepatitis A vaccines to hopefully prevent illness onset.  William Marler, food safety attorney from Seattle, has filed suit on behalf of those who received vaccines and one family whose 16 year old contracted Hepatitis A.

As Marler said, "it appears the second Ill McDonald’s employee last worked on July 13 or 14. That means that the number of ill may well rise over the next month during the height of the incubation period."

The Rock Island County Health Department will conduct walk-in clinics at its office at 2112 25th Ave., Rock Island, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. These additional dates are being made available for those who went to the Milan, Ill., McDonald’s on July 13 or 14. If they went there previous to these dates, receiving either of these shots may be beyond the time period to provide protection from potential exposure.

A second dose of hepatitis A vaccine, administered six months after the first one, will provide additional effectiveness against the disease. Second doses will be available at the health department, but they will not be free as the first-dose clinics have been. The cost of the second dose will be $45 for adults and $15-$25 for pediatric patients, depending upon income guidelines.