Baskin Robbins worker with hepatitis A may have exposed customers

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Health officials in Hawaii are urging the public to get vaccinated after discovering that a Baskin Robbins worker served customers while infected with hepatitis A, a highly contagious virus. The warning comes amid an outbreak of the infection in the island state, where there were 52 confirmed cases of hepatitis A as of Tuesday afternoon.

Individuals at risk of contracting the virus from the infected employee visited the ice cream shop, in the town of Waipahu on Oahu, between June 17 and July 3, 2016, according to a news release from the Hawaii State Department of Health.

The health department advised anyone who hasn’t received the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin who visited the store within that date range to contact their health care provider and request vaccination. The vaccine may offer some protection against the virus within the first two weeks after exposure.

“The source of this outbreak has still not been determined. In the meantime, we encourage all persons consider and talk to their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said in a news release issued Tuesday. “This case demonstrates the potential to spread hepatitis A virus to many others who remain susceptible. In an effort to stem the spread of disease, individuals, including food service employees, exhibiting symptoms of hepatitis A infection should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.”

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Of the hepatitis A cases in the state— all of which are in Oahu— 16 have required hospitalization.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes, and typically last several weeks to as long as two months. With proper treatment, most individuals recover from hepatitis A without complications, according to the health department.

Hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom and before preparing food, as well as appropriately cooking foods, can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.