Jascor Inc., McDonald's operator in Waterloo, New York, was sued when customers were exposed to food and beverage made by a crew member with hepatitis A. The plaintiffs are pursuing a class-action status which could include over 1,000 affected customers who were potentially exposed to the contagious virus.
On Nov. 13, the Seneca County Health Department verified that one of the crew members at Waterloo McDonald's has hepatitis A. While public health officials affirmed that diners are unlikely to contract the virus, they encouraged diners who ate at the restaurant from Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 to check with their doctors, particularly those who did not receive any hepatitis A vaccine in the past.
A crew member with hepatitis A can potentially transfer the virus not just to food and beverages but also to utensils simply by not washing after a trip to the lavatory. Plaintiff Christopher Welch bought and ate food and beverages at the Waterloo McDonald's during the said period.
A makeshift clinic was put up at the Mynderse Academy Gymnasium at Troy Street in Seneca County. More than 1,000 customers who might have been exposed to the virus were given hepatitis A vaccines. The county health officials are expecting more.
"In Seneca County we have we have not had Hepatitis A outbreak before, at least a large breakout in the 23 years since I've been here. I'm glad to see we had such a good turnout and that people are taking this seriously," said Seneca County Public Health Department Director Vicky Swinehart.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus transmitted by fecal to oral route. This is when a healthy person accidentally ingests water or food contaminated with the feces of an ill person. The fecal-oral transmission could happen when an infected person forgets to wash his or her hands after a trip a bathroom trip and before food preparation. Water-related outbreaks can be traced to water that is ineffectively treated or a contaminated sewage.
Over 80 percent of infected adults in the U.S. show symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal and joint pains, vomiting and dark urine. These symptoms could manifest between two to six weeks after being exposed to the virus. However, most children do not show these symptoms. Hepatitis A vaccine last for life and is the best protection against the virus.
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