olive garden.jpgThe Cumberland County Public Health Department issued an alert yesterday that anyone who visited the Olive Garden, located on 234 North McPherson Church Road in Fayetteville, North Carolina anytime on July 25, 26, 28, 29, 31 and August 1, 2 and 8 may have been exposed to Hepatitis A through a restaurant employee.

In the press release, Health Department Director Buck Wilson expressed, “It is important that those persons working or visiting the restaurant on these dates receive an injection of Hepatitis A immune globulin or vaccine immediately.” Wilson added:

Exposed individuals from those dates may obtain the immunization through the Cumberland County Public Health Department, 1235 Ramsey Street, at a walk-in clinic starting Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 9 a.m. The walk-in clinic will continue until further notice daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both immune globulin (also called gamma globulin) and Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent infection with Hepatitis A virus if given within 14 days of exposure. Individuals must receive the vaccine immediately. Individuals current on Hepatitis A vaccine are considered protected from this virus. Questions and concerns will be addressed by calling the Health Department at 910-433-3638.

The Hepatitis A virus travels in feces, and can spread from person to person, or can be contracted from food or water. In cases of contaminated food, it is usually the person preparing the food who contaminates it. The food handler will probably not know they have the virus, since the virus is most likely to be passed on in the first two weeks of illness, before a person begins to show symptoms.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A usually appear around 28 days after infection, but can start as early as two weeks after catching the virus. Early symptoms of this hepatitis virus include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Fever
  • Weakness and fatigue

After a few days of experiencing these symptoms, 70 percent of patients develop jaundice, a yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Jaundice also causes dark urine and light, clay-colored feces. Symptoms usually last less than two months, although they sometimes last up to six months, and jaundice can linger for up to eight months. Patients can also experience severely itchy skin for a few months after symptoms first appear.

It is important to note, however, that symptoms of the disease can vary in severity. For instance, some individuals, especially children, may not develop jaundice or any symptom at all, and may have an illness so mild that it can go unnoticed. However, even mildly ill persons can still be highly infectious. Persons with illness suggestive of hepatitis should consult a physician even if symptoms are mild.

According to the Cumberland County Health Department, it is possible that patrons of the Fayetteville, North Carolina Olive Garden may have been exposed to Hepatitis A prior to July 25, 2011. While the vaccine is not effective for these patrons, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms and discuss with your primary care physician.

For more information about the Hepatitis A virus, please visit http://www.about-hepatitis.com/.