The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services announced that there are several cases of hepatitis A confirmed in individuals who ate at 555 East American Steakhouse in downtown Long Beach. The Health Department is investigating this outbreak and identified the exposure dates to be on or around December 24, 2019. Besides the confirmed victims, there may be others who were also exposed if they ate at the restaurant during this time period. Although the source of the outbreak has not yet been determined, the restaurant has been cooperating with the investigation.
“We are notifying the public of the exposure so that people can immediately seek medical care if they begin to develop symptoms,” said Dr. Anissa Davis, City Health Officer. “Individuals who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A or have had the disease are protected. Those who are not immune to hepatitis A should consult their medical provider if they develop symptoms, and let their provider know they may have been exposed to hepatitis A.”
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The disease can range from a mild illness lasting 1 or 2 weeks to a severe illness lasting for several months. HAV is found in the stool of people with hepatitis A infection and is usually spread by eating contaminated food or drinking water and can be spread through close personal/sexual contact. A person who has hepatitis A can easily pass the disease to others within the same household.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A infection?
Not everyone has symptoms. If symptoms develop, they can include:
Light colored stools
Loss of appetite
Yellow skin and eyes (Jaundice—may develop several days to a week after other symptoms begin)
Infants and young children with hepatitis A infection tend to have milder or no symptoms and are less likely to develop jaundice than are older children and adults.
Illness usually occurs from two weeks to as long as 50 days after exposure to the hepatitis A virus (i.e., consuming the contaminated product).
Persons should seek medical attention immediately should they develop symptoms.
Who should be tested for hepatitis A infection?
Testing when you have no symptoms is not recommended: your test result may be negative because it is too early (given the long incubation period of hepatitis A disease)—that is, you may have a false negative result.
Only patients who have symptoms of hepatitis A infection should be tested.
How long is a person with hepatitis A contagious?
Patients with hepatitis A are most contagious during the 1 to 2 weeks before the symptoms start until at least 1 week after the start of first symptoms.
What is the treatment for hepatitis A infection?
There is no special treatment for persons with hepatitis A infection. Most persons with hepatitis A infection will recover without complications but may require supportive therapy (e.g. fluids orally or, in some cases, given through the vein, medicines to control fever) and close monitoring by their physician. Persons should seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of hepatitis A infection.
How can I prevent hepatitis A infection?
Hepatitis A infection is a vaccine preventable disease. Fortunately, most children and some adolescents have been vaccinated as part of routine and catch-up childhood vaccination recommendations. However, many adolescents and adults have not been vaccinated and will be susceptible.
Two doses of hepatitis A vaccine are needed for lasting protection. These doses should be given at least 6 months apart.
If you have already been vaccinated against hepatitis A or have had hepatitis A disease in the past, you should be protected and do not require a booster for protection.
Does hepatitis B vaccine provide any protection against hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for hepatitis C. Vaccination with hepatitis B vaccine does not provide protection against hepatitis A disease.