An employee at a busy Starbucks location in New Jersey may have inadvertently exposed thousands of customers to hepatitis A, prompting hundreds of people to show up at a vaccination drive this weekend.
An unnamed staffer at the Starbucks located at 1490 Blackwood Clementon Road in Gloucester Township had tested positive for the highly contagious liver infection after working at least six days in November serving customers.
The Camden County Department of Heath learned of the worker’s diagnosis on Wednesday, and notified the public that anyone who purchased food or drinks from the Gloucester Township location between November 4 and November, 6 or between November 11 and 13 may have been exposed to hepatitis A.
Health officials organized a pop-up hepatitis A vaccination clinic on Friday and Saturday, and hundreds of people turned up to get their shots.
Scroll down for video
An employee who worked at a Starbucks location (above) in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, has tested positive for hepatitis A and may have been exposed between November 4 and November 6 or between November 11 and 13
The Starbucks location remained closed until all the workers were vaccinated
People are seen standing in line to get vaccinated against hepatitis A at a pop-up clinic in New Jersey over the weekend
Health officials visited the store and said they did not find any evidence of food safety violations.
What is hepatitis A and how can it be treated?
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can have both minor and severe symptoms for the person infected.
It is primarily spread when a person who isn’t vaccinated ingests food or water that has been contaminated with feces of an infected individual.
The virus is one of the most frequent causes for foodborne infections.
The incubation period of hepatitis A is normally 14 to 28 days.
People can experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Dark-colored urine
- Acute liver failure
Who is at risk?
Anyone who has not been vaccinated or has never been infected with the hepatitis A virus is at risk.
Other factors that increase risk include:
- Poor sanitation
- Lack of clean water
- Recreational drug use
- Living with an infected person or having sexual relations with one
- Traveling to areas with high risk without a vaccination
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A.
It may take some people a couple weeks to a couple months to recover from the symptoms.
Doctors recommend everyone to get a vaccination to help prevent the risk of getting infected by the virus.
Source: World of Health
The store was closed temporarily and did not reopen until all the employees were vaccinated.
So far, 782 patrons and 12 Starbucks employees have been immunized. Health officials will reopen the clinic on Wednesday to allow more people to get vaccinated.
The worker who had contracted the illness was said to be recovering. Health officials said there have been no reports of anyone else testing positive for hepatitis A as a result of the exposure at Starbucks.
Officials estimate that up to 4,000 people may have been exposed to the infection, reported ABC 7 NY.
‘The county health department has been working closely with the patient and the staff at the Starbucks to address the situation,’ Camden County Health Officer Paschal Nwako said in a statement.
‘Our highest priority is ensuring everyone involved remains safe and healthy. The patient is not currently working, and close contacts have been identified.
‘We encourage anyone who may believe they were exposed to get vaccinated against hepatitis A by calling the county health department or your primary care physician.’
People are urged to get the vaccine ‘as soon as possible but no later than 14 days after contact.’
The location where the exposure took place is busy, serving an average of 600 patrons a day, ‘but the exposure is probably in the thousands,’ County spokesman Dan Keashen told CNN.
Keashen has revealed to The Washington Post that he and his eight-year-old daughter were among the thousands possibly exposed to hepatitis A.
Keashen got his jab on Thursday, and his daughter had been vaccinated previously.
Hepatitis A is a virus that attacks the body through liver inflammation. It is highly contagious and is typically spread through sexual contact, needle sharing, or by consuming food that has been contaminated by someone infected with the virus.
Those who are at risk of developing hepatitis A include drug users, men who have sex with men and homeless individuals.
Symptoms – which include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and dark urine – can take anywhere from two to seven weeks after exposure to appear.
Although many who are infected show no symptoms, it can take a few months for the illness to pass.
Hepatitis A has been a recommended childhood vaccine since the mid-1990s. The vaccine consists of two doses administered six months apart.
About 800 people who may have been exposed to hepatitis A at the New Jersey Starbuck have been vaccinated so far
Health officials are recommending that anyone who ate or drank at the store get vaccinated against Hepatitis A (file image)
Along with getting vaccinated, public health officials suggest strategies that include hand-washing with soap and water after going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A cases rose nearly 300 percent from 2016 to 2018 in comparison with the same period between 2013 and 2015.
Researchers at the agency say this is largely due to outbreaks among the homeless population and among drug users.