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Health

As Thousands are Exposed to Hepatitis A, an Expert Explains What the Virus Does

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Springfield and Greene County Health officials are offering to vaccinate thousands of people after a food service worker at the Red Robin restaurant on South Glenstone tested positive for Hepatitis A.  KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson spoke with an expert to learn more about the virus.

Dr. William Sistrunk works as an infectious diseases physician at Mercy Hospital Springfield.

“Hepatitis, in general, is inflammation of the liver,” Sistrunk said.

And Hepatitis A, he said, is a specific virus that is most commonly spread by eating something that has been infected with it.

“It can lead to fever, and some discomfort around the liver, which is in the upper right area of the abdomen, where the liver is located,” Sistrunk said.

It can also cause the liver decrease in function, meaning that some patients develop jaundice, shown by their skin turning more yellow.

There are a few main differences between Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B and C.

The main differences are:  the way they are transmitted and the fact that Hepatitis A is not a lifelong illness, whereas Hepatitis B and C often are, despite new treatments.

“Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are transmitted more with blood and other bodily fluids, and Hepatitis A is mainly transmitted by what we generally call the fecal-oral route. [That’s] where your hands become contaminated with Hepatitis A, or something that you eat is contaminated with Hepatits A, and then you eat it, or ingest it,” Sistrunk said.

Sistrunk stresses prevention.

“The best way to help prevent Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated,” he said.

Also, he said washing your hands frequently is critical for keeping viruses and bacteria at bay.

You can read more about Hepatitis A, including its symtoms, by clicking this page from Mayo Clinic.

Below is the updated press release from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department:

UPDATED: Possible Exposure to Hepatitis A at a South Springfield Restaurant

 

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is alerting the public about a potential local health threat and outlining plans in place for people affected.

The department has been notified of an individual recently diagnosed with Hepatitis A who had been working at a local restaurant while possibly contagious.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can result in sickness ranging from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe symptoms lasting several months.

This infection is easily transmitted from person to person in a food service environment.

We have been in contact with our healthcare partners to alert them to the situation and review proper vaccination protocols.

Out of an abundance of caution, the Health Department is recommending individuals who ate at the Red Robin restaurant at 3720 S. Glenstone Avenue from May 8 to May 16 to contact their healthcare provider.

While the Health Department considers this a significant health threat, an important thing to remember is that people are now commonly vaccinated for Hepatitis A.

For those not previously vaccinated, the Health Department has set up a vaccination clinic which will take place at Remington’s at 1655 W. Republic Road.  

While this clinic will be open to the public, the Health Department recommends individuals who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems visit their doctor for guidance. People with latex or neomycin allergies should visit their doctor. 

No-cost vaccinations will be provided starting May 22 at 11 am to 6 pm and will continue May 23 from 7 a.m. to noon.

Mercy will also offer vaccinations at the Smith Glynn Callaway Clinic at 3231 S. National on May 24-26 from noon to 4 p.m.

CoxHealth will also offer vaccinations at urgent care at the Turner Center at 1000 E. Primrose from noon to 4 p.m. May 24-26.

Symptoms of the illness include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice

 
The department has set up a hotline from people to call if they have questions. It is at 417-829-6200.

It will be staffed from:

7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 22

7 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 23