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Clermont Steak 'n Shake food service worker tests positive for Hepatitis A

Orlando Sentinel - 2/7/2020

Feb. 7--A food service worker in a Clermont Steak 'n Shake has tested positive for Hepatitis A, according to the Lake County health department.

The individual worked at the restaurant, at 2545 E. FL-50, between Jan. 1 to 19 and Jan. 28 and 29, and may have been infectious.

The latest infection in Central Florida comes as the state continues to grapple with an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak, which has also affected other parts of the country.

Florida reported a total of 3,409 cases of Hepatitis A in 2019. That's compared with 548 cases in 2018.

There have been 183 hepatitis A cases in Florida so far this year, including four in Lake, one in Orange, one in Osceola and two in Seminole counties.

In response to the unprecedented rising number of Hepatitis A cases, Florida health officials declared a public health emergency last August.

Health officials are advising individuals who ate or drank at the Clermont Steak 'n Shake between Jan. 28 and 29 to get vaccinated. The vaccine may provide protection against the disease if given within two weeks after exposure to the virus.

Those who ate at the restaurant between Jan. 1 and 19 should observe for signs and symptoms of hepatitis A infection, which include sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, pale white stool or yellow skin and eyes. Seek medical attention if you're experiencing these symptoms.

Lake County residents can get a free Hepatitis A vaccine on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lake County health department at 875 Oakley Seaver Blvd. in Clermont.

Individuals who have been previously vaccinated are considered immune and don't need to get vaccinated again.

The risk of getting the hepatitis A infection from food is low, but health officials still want to take all precautionary measures.

"Although cases in food handlers occur, common sources of food or drinks have not been identified as potential sources of infection in the jurisdictions experiencing hepatitis A outbreaks," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 95% of all cases are individuals who have not been vaccinated, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The Florida Department of Health has also created the acronym V.E.S.T. in response to the outbreak: "Vaccinate, Educate yourself, practice basic Sanitation by washing your hands, and know that FDOH and our health partners are Tracking the virus with the goal of bringing this outbreak to an end.

Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination and good hand-washing, but there's no treatment for it. People with chronic liver disease and older adults with serious medical conditions are at the highest risk of developing serious complications from the disease.

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The virus is transmitted via the fecal-oral route, which is why the health department is emphasizing the sanitation practices at public facilities and hand-washing with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers don't kill the hepatitis A virus.

If you have questions about exposure to hepatitis A at Steak 'n Shake, call 352-771-5575.

Health officials recommend that you get vaccinate if you fall in one of these groups:

-- You are homeless or your housing is unstable.

-- Use illicit recreational drugs -- injected or not.

-- Want protection (immunity) from the virus.

-- Have adopted or care for a child who comes from a country where hepatitis A is common.

-- Are 60 or older and have a serious underlying medical condition.

-- Have chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or C.

-- Have a clotting-factor disorder.

-- Have come into direct contact with others who have the virus.

-- Are a man who has sex with other men.

-- Have traveled to or will travel to countries where the virus is common--visit the CDC's Traveler's Health.

The state health department offers the following resources to find a vaccine:

-- Talk to your health care provider--ask if hepatitis A vaccine is a good option for you or your family.

-- Call a county health department. See current vaccine costs-- ask the the county health department if you are eligible for free or low-cost vaccine.

-- All commercial insurance plans cover hepatitis A with no co-pay. Medicare Part D and some part B plans cover hepatitis A.

-- Medicaid plans now cover the hepatitis A vaccine. Click here to view a full list of the Medicaid plans which now cover the vaccine.

-- Use VaccineFinder.org to find vaccine in your area.

This story originally appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com.

nmiller@orlandosentinel.com.

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