Kentucky health officials are warning customers of a local McDonald’s restaurant that they may have been exposed to hepatitis A, after an employee reported handling food while infected.
The Madison County Health Department of Kentucky issued a warning (PDF) on April 12, indicating that the agency is investigating a single case of hepatitis A linked to the Berea, Kentucky McDonalds, where an employee may have passed the virus to customers through food served in recent weeks.
According to the health department, the McDonalds franchise being investigated is located in the town of Berea, South Lexington, Kentucky. The department has warned patrons the chances of becoming infected with the virus are low, however at least one customer has already reportedly tested positive for the virus.
Hepatitis A causes liver disease and inflammation of the liver and can be extremely dangerous if not treated. The virus is most commonly spread when a person eats, drinks, or touches their mouth with something that has come into contact with feces from an infected person. Even the most microscopic amounts of feces untraceable to the human eye may carry enough of the virus to infect an individual.
The symptoms of the virus usually appear within 15 to 50 days after exposure and can include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal, and sometimes yellow eyes or skin and dark urine. The infection is treatable through the use of antibiotics and vaccinations that can deplete the virus within days to weeks.
McDonald’s restaurants have been involved in prior incidents involving the spread of the hepatitis A virus. In 2009, at least 30 cases of hepatitis A were linked to an infection outbreak caused by workers at a McDonald’s in northwestern Illinois.
At least 26 McDonald’s hepatitis A infections were found among people in Illinois as part of that prior outbreak, and another four victims were identified who live out-of-state. All of the confirmed cases are people who ate at the McDonald’s in Milan, Ill. The resulting outbreak led to county health officials inoculating more than 5,000 local residents against the disease in order to contain the outbreak.
That outbreak resulted in a hepatitis exposure class action lawsuit that was filed against McDonalds on behalf of all customers who ate at the Illinois restaurant and subsequently received preventative treatment for the virus.