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Nearly 5000 People Exposed to Hepatitis A

May 22, 2014 03:29 PM EDT
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Nearly 5,000 residents of Springfield, Missouri may have been exposed to Hepatitis A after an infected man continued to work at his food service industry job, even after experiencing the first symptoms of the disease.

"Out of an abundance of caution," the Springfield-Greene Country Health Department (SGCH) is recommending that any person who ate at a Red Robin restaurant on Glenstone Avenue between May 8 and May 16 contact their doctor to inform them of the exposure.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that "is easily transmitted from person to person in a food service environment," according to a recent SGCH release.

"Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter - even in microscopic amounts - from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person," according to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement.

While not often fatal, the infection can cause severe symptoms for several months. The symptoms vary from person to person, and may not present themselves at all for months, but often include fever, fatigue, dark urine, joint pain, and even jaundice - a yellowing of the skin or eyes.

Thankfully, there is an effective vaccine for Hepatitis A that most American citizens receive early in their lives as part of the Childhood Immunization Program. For those unsure of their immunization status, the SGCH is offering vaccinations to exposed Springfield residents on May 22 and May 23 at a clinic at 1655 W. Republic Road.

SGCH Health Director Kevin Gipson held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to inform those exposed about the offered vaccinations.

"If the vaccine is not taken within 14 days of the time exposed, it doesn't work," Gipson told local media. "So we are really on the clock, which is why we are doing this very quickly and we need your help to get the information out.

Additional vaccinations will be offered to concerned residents between May 24-26 at the Smith Glynn Callaway Clinic at 3231 S. National.

*** CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the location of the incident was incorectly named as "Minnesota" and has since been corrected. ***

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