Medicine

AHS: Alberta Safeway food handler tests positive for hepatitis A

Reports have emerged that a food handler working at a Safeway located at 610 Big Rock Lane in Okotoks has tested positive for hepatitis A and people who consumed donuts purchased from the bulk bins at this location between December 1 and 21, 2017, may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

According to AHS officials, risk to the public is low, but hepatitis A is a serious infection and so as a precaution, anyone who consumed unpackaged donuts produced at this location between December 1 and 21 is advised to monitor themselves and their family for symptoms for 50 days since those products were consumed.

The location in question has already been cleaned, inspected and approved as safe to operate by AHS Environmental Public Health inspectors and so there is no ongoing threat.

Hepatitis A immunization provided after an exposure can often prevent illness from occurring, but only if it is provided within two weeks since the last exposure.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. Spread through the fecal-oral route, individuals primarily contract hepatitis A through direct contact with an infected person; however, individuals can also contract the illness indirectly by ingestion of contaminated food or water. If an infected individual does not properly wash his/her hands after using the washroom, the virus can be transmitted through food and beverages prepared by the infected individual.

Illness can occur within 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus, but usually does within 28 to 30 days. Individuals can be infectious one to two weeks before symptoms occur until at least one week after the onset of illness.

Symptoms of hepatitis A may include: tiredness; poor appetite; nausea and vomiting; abdominal pain and fever; followed by dark-coloured urine, light-coloured stools, and yellowing of eyes and skin several days later. Some people, especially young children, may get hepatitis A infection without noticing any symptoms; however, they are still infectious to others.

Individuals who develop such symptoms are advised to immediately contact Health Link at 811.

Individuals who have had hepatitis A infection in the past or who have previously received an appropriate series of hepatitis A vaccine are not at risk of infection.

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, but it can be prevented through immunization.