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Possible hepatitis A exposure at Philadelphia ShopRite, health officials warn

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(PHILADELPHIA) — The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is warning that several people may have recently been exposed to hepatitis A at a grocery store.

An employee at a ShopRite, located in the northeast part of the city, was confirmed to have “acute hepatitis A” and was working behind the meat counter between Jan. 4 and Jan. 21 while possibly contagious, said officials.

“The store is aware of the situation and is working collaboratively with the Health Department,” the agency wrote in a statement.

While calling the risk of infection “very low,” the health department says beef or pork purchased from the store during this period and since frozen “should be discarded as a precaution.” Additionally, anyone who has handled or eaten raw or undercooked beef or pork purchased from the store’s meat counter between Jan. 4 and Jan. 21 should be vaccinated against hepatitis A “as soon as possible,” the health department says.

“People who have previously received two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine OR have had Hepatitis A in the past do not need to be vaccinated,” the department of health further notes.

No details about the infected worker are available, and it’s unclear how many people may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus due to possible secondary exposures from people who brought meat home or potential cross-contamination at the store, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health told ABC News. It’s assumed that the infected employee was unvaccinated, the spokesperson said.

So far, there have been no additional reports of hepatitis A and no other ShopRite locations have been affected, according to the Philadelphia Department of Health.

The Philadelphia Department of Health began offering free hepatitis A vaccines on Saturday to anyone who may have been exposed, with 61 people vaccinated as of Monday morning, the spokesperson told ABC News.

Hepatitis A is a very contagious infection that affects the liver and is caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The virus is found in the stool and blood of infected people and is spread through close, personal contact with an infected patient or by eating contaminated food and drink, even in microscopic amounts, the CDC says.

The CDC says a person can transmit hepatitis A without showing symptoms and can do so up to two weeks before symptoms appear. Symptoms include yellowing of the skin or eyes, loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fever and diarrhea.

There are no specific treatments for hepatitis A, with doctors typically recommending rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids, according to the CDC.

Most people recover completely, but in rare cases, hepatitis A can lead to liver failure and death, but this is more common among those with underlying conditions such as chronic liver disease, according to the CDC.

To protect against hepatitis A, the CDC recommends receiving the hepatitis A vaccine. There are two types: one given as two shots six months apart, and the other a combination vaccine that protects against hepatitis A and B and that is given as three shots over six months.

If someone has been exposed to the virus, experts say a single shot of the hepatitis A vaccine given within two weeks may prevent the virus from taking hold.

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