Health officials in Snohomish County, Washington have issued a warning for people who have recently dined at two Taco Bell locations to monitor themselves for signs of hepatitis A and get vaccinated if they haven’t already. The warning is in response to an employee, who worked at both locations, testing positive for hepatitis A. The infected person is believed to have contracted the virus while traveling abroad.
The two Taco Bell locations in question are at 2727 Broadway and 303 Northeast 91st Street on Lake Stevens. Health officials are advising anyone who ate food at these locations on May 22-23 to contact their healthcare provider or the public health department. The Snohomish County Health Department is working with the businesses to identify other employees who may have been infected. They will provide preventive information and resources for vaccination and post-exposure prophylaxis if needed.
Vaccination is effective in preventing the development of the liver virus up to two weeks after exposure. Health officials recommend that people who ate at either Taco Bell location on the days of exposure should check their vaccination records. If they have not been vaccinated, are unsure of their vaccination status, or are not immune, they should contact their healthcare provider or the Snohomish County Health Department for guidance and post-exposure prophylaxis options.
Post-exposure prophylaxis options include the administration of the hepatitis A vaccine or immunoglobulin (IG). Both options provide immediate and durable protection when given within two weeks of exposure to the hepatitis A virus. The hepatitis A vaccine is available from several healthcare providers or pharmacies throughout the county. Infected people who are having trouble finding a vaccine provider, or who are uninsured or inadequately insured, should contact the health department.
People who have recently dined at either Taco Bell location should monitor themselves for symptoms of illness. Symptoms may take between 15 to 50 days to appear. Early signs of hepatitis A include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, and jaundice. If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before handling food to avoid the spread of the disease.
Hepatitis A is spread through faecal contamination and can be passed from person to person through close contact and food handling. Consistent and thorough handwashing is essential to prevent the spread of infection through food handling. The disease varies in severity, and in mild cases he is cured within two weeks. More severe cases may last six weeks or more. Some people, especially children, may not develop jaundice, but the disease may still be highly contagious even in those with mild symptoms. People who have symptoms of hepatitis A should seek medical attention immediately, even if their symptoms are mild.