By Madeline Farber
Published October 30, 2018
Some Cracker Barrel diners in Mineral Wells, West Virginia, may have been exposed to hepatitis A, health officials warned Monday after confirming an employee tested positive for the "highly contagious" virus.
The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department — which did not identify the worker — said anyone who ate at the restaurant between Oct. 15 and Oct. 21 may need to receive a vaccine to protect themselves against the liver infection.
The health department said the investigation into the case of hepatitis A at the Cracker Barrel is part of a “multistate outbreak of hepatitis A,” though noted “most cases reported throughout the state have been person-to-person contact occurring primarily among people who are transients, those who are homeless, persons who use injection and non-injection drugs, and their close direct contacts.”
The virus typically spreads when a person eats or drinks something “contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person," according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Those who contract hepatitis A — not to be confused with hepatitis B or C, which are caused by different viruses — may be sick for “several weeks" and usually fully recover, according to the CDC. Though it's rare, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, typically in those who are 50 years of age or older.
Some symptoms of the infection that may develop include fever, fatigue, dark urine, vomiting, joint pain and jaundice, among other signs.
The virus, which is preventable with a vaccine, is more common in developing countries where sanitation and hygiene are poor, according to the CDC.
Though Mineral Wells' Cracker Barrel temporarily closed on a voluntary basis to “clean and sanitize,” it has since reopened, according to the health department.
Carrie Brainard, a spokesperson for the health department, told local news station WTAP there have been “no cases in West Virginia or Ohio, where a food service worker has passed Hepatitis A on to a patron.”
“We’re just being precautionary,” she added.
Anyone who thinks they may have contracted the illness should contact a physician or health care professional, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department suggests.