According to health officials, the hepatitis A outbreak that may have infected thousands of people in Utah originated from San Diego, where a large epidemic made ravages.
In the Utah outbreak, Hepatitis A-infected workers may have exposed many customers in a 7-Eleven convenience store and two restaurants in the Salt Lake City area.
The restaurants and the convenience store were tied to a Utah hepatitis A outbreak that started out in August 2017, initially spreading among drug users and homeless people in Salt Lake City.
Utah Hepatitis A Outbreak Spread From San Diego
According to a new report from ABC News, Nicholas Rupp, a spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department, said that tests have linked the Utah hepatitis A outbreak to another outbreak in San Diego, California. The San Diego epidemic has killed 20 people and hundreds more got sick, marking the worst U.S. epidemic of this kind in the last two decades. Officials in California stated that the San Diego hepatitis A outbreak has slowed down, but it's still active.
Having spread to Utah, the hepatitis A outbreak has infected more people with 152 cases confirmed so far, but no deaths have been reported at this point.
Since the outbreak first hit homeless people and drug users, Utah officials speculate that it might have spread as individuals shifted between homeless centers in San Diego and Utah. Further outbreaks in Colorado and Arizona have also been linked to the San Diego epidemic.
As far as Utah is concerned, the health department issued a statement on Jan. 7, announcing that up to 2,000 people who went to the 7-Eleven convenience store at 2666 West 7800 in West Jordan between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3 may have been exposed to the virus.
The officials added that at higher risk were those who used the restroom of the convenience store or consumed various items such as food and beverages for sale.
Hepatitis A Highlights And Recommended Precautions
Hepatitis A is a liver disease that's highly contagious, spreading easily through contaminated water or food, as well as through sexual contact. The homeless are particularly vulnerable to this severe disease because they usually can't easily access proper sanitation.
Utah residents or visitors who went to the affected 7-Eleven branch store during the aforementioned period are advised to contact the Health Department in Salt Lake County so they can get a vaccine against the virus. Staff will determine people's risk of exposure and offer options to get the hepatitis A shot. Those who only consumed packaged food and bottled beverages from the convenience store are at no risk and don't have to contact the health department.
At the same time, the outbreak serves as a warning that establishments that sell food should consider giving employees a vaccine to protect them against hepatitis A.