Health Officials Investigate Hepatitis A Cases In Southwestern Minnesota

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Hepatitis A Cases

The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating two cases of hepatitis A in food workers at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in Slayton Minnesota.

The restaurant closed voluntarily May 1 as a precaution after the illness was confirmed in one food worker.

MDH and local public health staff are working to determine if other employees have hepatitis A and to what extent, if any, the disease may have been transmitted to patrons of the restaurant. Several suspect cases among employees are being tested for hepatitis A and results of those tests may be known as early as Thursday.

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"We are concerned that some patrons of the restaurant may have been exposed to the virus through contaminated food," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist for MDH. "MDH is working with the local public health department to prevent additional cases."

Restaurant patrons could have been exposed between April 9 and May 1, 2007. Symptoms from those exposures typically would begin 2 to 7 weeks (most likely occur 3 to 4 weeks) following exposure, between April 23 and June 19, 2007.

Lyon Lincoln Murray Pipestone County Public Health Services is planning a clinic to provide immune globulin (IG) to people who ate at the Pizza Ranch restaurant, or at events catered by that restaurant, between April 20 and May 1, 2007. IG can be given within 14 days of exposure to the hepatitis A virus to provide protection against developing the infection. The clinic will be promoted by local news media as soon as details are known.

The restaurant serves 800-1,000 meals per week; therefore, a large number of people could have been exposed. People exposed prior to April 20 no longer can benefit from receiving IG, but could develop hepatitis A in the coming weeks.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), but does not result in a chronic infection. Adults generally experience some acute symptoms, particularly headache, fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, and nausea. Dark (tea or cola-colored) urine, light-colored feces (stool), and yellowing of eyes or skin (jaundice) may appear a few days later. Young children generally do not have symptoms. Rarely, hepatitis A can lead to very severe liver disease. Most people who have hepatitis A get well on their own after a few weeks, but may need to rest in bed for several days or weeks.

People who are concerned about possible symptoms should consult with their health care provider.

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