Customers who ate at the Fort Smith Red Lobster, 7401 Rogers Ave., between July 19 and Aug. 4 are urged to seek vaccination immediately if they have never been vaccinated against hepatitis A or are unsure of their vaccination status, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
ADH says an employee of the Fort Smith Red Lobster tested positive for the virus. The case appears to be related to travel outside of the state and is not thought to be part of the current hepatitis A outbreak in northeast Arkansas, according to ADH.
There is no known risk to anyone who ate at the location after Aug. 4, according to ADH.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. There are no specific treatments once a person gets the virus, but illness can be prevented even after exposure by getting the vaccine or medicine called immune globulin, according to ADH. The vaccine and medicine work best if given within two weeks of exposure. However, if it has been more than two weeks since potential exposure but symptoms have not yet developed, the vaccine may still be given, ADH says.
ADH is planning clinics in Sebastian County where the hepatitis A vaccine will be provided to the public at no cost. People should bring their insurance card and driver’s license if they have one. Vaccines are also available at many pharmacies and doctor’s offices, according to ADH.
Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek care immediately. Typical symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months, ADH says.
Hepatitis A differs from the viruses that cause hepatitis B or C. It is usually spread when a person ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person, according to ADH.
A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear. The virus can cause illness anytime from two to seven weeks after exposure. If infected, most people will develop symptoms three to four weeks after exposure. Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms. Almost all people who get hepatitis A recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months, according to ADH.
The older a person is when they get hepatitis A, typically the more severe symptoms they have. Other risk factors for having more severe symptoms include having other infections or chronic diseases like hep B or C, HIV/AIDS or diabetes, ADH says. Up to one in three adults are hospitalized. Death from hepatitis A is rare, but is more likely in patients with other liver diseases (like hepatitis B or C).
For information about hepatitis A, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.