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Detroit officials, Whole Foods work to limit Hepatitis A cases

Friday, October 21, 2016 22:31
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Public health officials in Detroit are investigating two cases of Hepatitis A infection and urging anyone who recently ate food prepared at a Whole Foods Market store there to consider getting a post-exposure vaccination.

Locals turned out in force when Whole Foods Market opened its store on Mack Avenue in Detroit. The chain has six stores in Michigan.

City officials and corporate officials with the Austin, TX-based grocery store chain reported late this week that an employee at Whole Foods’ Mack Avenue location in Detroit has tested positive for the virus, as has a customer who dined in the store’s prepared foods section.

“It is still unclear how either case was contracted,” according to the Detroit Health Department’s advisory issued Thursday.

“However, given the theoretical risk that the second case may have contracted the disease from the food handler, the Detroit Health Department is recommending that anyone who may have consumed prepared foods at Whole Foods Detroit between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12 speak to a physician and seek preventive treatment.”

The post-exposure vaccine is not effective if it is administered more than two weeks after exposure to the Hepatitis a virus. Consequently, customers who had food or beverages from the prepared section of the Detroit store from Oct. 8-12 could still benefit from the shot.

Detroit’s health department is providing evaluations and post-exposure treatment at its clinics at The Samaritan Center, 5555 Conner St., and The Family Place, 8726 Woodward Ave. The clinics will be open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 26.

People who have recently been exposed to Hepatitis A and who have not been vaccinated previously should be administered a single dose of single-antigen Hepatitis A vaccine within two weeks after exposure, according to the CDC. The average incubation period for Hepatitis A is 28 days, but symptoms can appear 15 to 50 days after exposure. (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

“While it remains unclear exactly how either of these individuals contracted Hepatitis A, and we know that Whole Foods Market Detroit has a comprehensive food safety protocol, we want to do our best to protect our residents and those of surrounding communities who may have been exposed. Whole Foods has been nothing but cooperative throughout this process.” Health Department Executive Director Abdul El-Sayed said in the advisory.

The department evaluated and provided preventive treatment to the staff at the Whole Foods location and is monitoring employees for any additional cases. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has jurisdiction over licensing and food safety in grocery stores and is working closely with the city health department on the investigation.

“… out of an abundance of caution, we immediately contacted the Detroit Health Department and began reviewing food logs and safety procedures,” Whole Foods corporate officers said in an unsigned statement.

“While there is no definitive link that the second case is related to the occurrence in our store, we are cooperating fully with the Detroit Health Department to ensure the safety of our customers and team members.”

Anyone who recently consumed food or beverages in the prepared foods section of the Whole Foods location, or has been in direct contact with wither of the confirmed victims, should monitor themselves for symptoms of Hepatitis A infection.

It can take up to 50 days for symptoms to develop, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some victims, especially children, do not develop any symptoms after becoming infected, but they are contagious.

“Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal, yellow eyes and skin, as well as dark urine,” according to the Detroit Health Department advisory.

“Many people who have Hepatitis A may not have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.”

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