SACO — A case of acute hepatitis A virus infection in a Saco food service worker has been identified by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Customers who visited the restaurant where the person worked are at risk for contracting the disease, agency officials say.

“The individual handled food at Saco House of Pizza in Saco while infectious from Aug. 5 through Aug. 21,” according to an Sept. 2 CDC press release. “While this employee was not in charge of preparing food, the individual had access to food in the kitchen.”

Restaurant customers and employees may be at risk for hepatitis A infection, according to the CDC. Agency officials recommend that anyone who ate food prepared at Saco House of Pizza or worked there from Aug. 18 through Aug. 21, receive a hepatitis A vaccine right away. There is a 14-day window during which prophylaxis is effective after exposure. Those who should get a vaccine includes anyone who may have had take-out, delivery, or curbside pickup of food from the restaurant.

Those visiting the restaurant from Aug. 5 through Aug. 17, were outside the timeframe for which prophylaxis is recommended. However, they should watch for symptoms and seek medical attention if symptoms develop. Those with compromised immune systems or children younger than 1 year old who visited the restaurant during this time may benefit from hepatitis A immune globulin (IG), upon consultation with their health care providers.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.

This is the second in less than three months that the Maine CDC has notified the public that someone in the food industry in Saco had hepatitis A. In June, the state agency sent out a press release that an individual who is a food service worker at Sea Salt Lobster Restaurant in Saco had a case of acute hepatitis A virus infection.

“The individual handled food at Sea Salt Lobster Restaurant while infectious from May 12 through May 23,” the CDC said in the earlier news release. An assessment of the employee’s illness determined that restaurant patrons could be at risk for hepatitis A infection and the CDC advised some to be vaccinated.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the CDC. Symptoms range from mild illness to a severe sickness that requires hospitalization and can last several months. Most adults with hepatitis A have a sudden onset of symptoms such as tiredness, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Most children younger than 6 years old do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.

Hepatitis A can be spread through contaminated food or water, especially in food prepared by a person who is infected. Symptoms begin to show 15-50 days after exposure to the virus. An infected person can spread the virus to others from approximately two weeks before symptoms start until one week after symptoms end.

Health care providers are encouraged to remain vigilant for hepatitis A infection in persons with consistent symptoms.

For more information on hepatitis A, visit: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm]www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm

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