New Jersey Starbucks worker tests positive for hepatitis A, sparking rush to vaccinate customers – USA TODAY


Starbucks employee tests positive for hepatitis A

People lined up for the hepatitis A vaccine after a Starbucks employee tested positive in Gloucester Township, New Jersey.

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An employee at a Starbucks in New Jersey tested positive for hepatitis A and was around co-workers and customers while contagious. The news prompted the restaurant to urge thousands of patrons to receive hepatitis A shots. 

Hepatitis A is one of several hepatitis viruses, which can cause inflammation and affect liver function, often caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. It is known to be contagious, with a person capable of contracting the virus from close contact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Camden County Health Department officer Paschal Nwako said in a public statement that a health care provider that treated the unnamed employee informed the department, located in Blackwood, N.J., on Wednesday. In response, the Starbucks restaurant was immediately closed. An investigation revealed that there was no evidence that food safety protocols were compromised.

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“Our highest priority is ensuring everyone involved remains safe and healthy,” Nwako said in the statement. “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.”

The Health Department offered free hepatitis A shots to customers on Friday and Saturday, leading to hundreds of people showing up for the pop-up vaccine clinic. The Health Department also determined, per its release, that the worker was in the restaurant on six different dates while being potentially positive: Nov. 4-6 and Nov. 11-13.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can vary, but generally will include: fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, low-grade fever and yellowing of the skin. According to the CDC, hepatitis A can be spread when a person ingests fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces of an infected person.

A single shot of the vaccine can help prevent hepatitis A. The CDC recorded 12,474 cases of hepatitis A in 2018.

Starbucks issued a statement on Sunday that read: “We’re working closely with Camden County Health Department and are fully in compliance with all requirements. There is no evidence that any customers or partners were affected.”