About 1,000 people received hepatitis A vaccinations through the Tuscaloosa County Health Department last week after it was announced that a local fast-food employee had been diagnosed with the virus.
But no one else has been diagnosed with the virus, which means it’s extremely unlikely that anyone else contracted it, said Dr. Albert White, area health officer for ADPH Area 3, which includes Tuscaloosa County.
“No other cases have been found, which makes it very unlikely that we had an outbreak,” White said.
Last week, the state health department announced that people who ate at the McDonald’s on McFarland Boulevard in Northport any time on March 14 or the morning of March 16 should seek a hepatitis A vaccination as soon as possible, because an employee at the restaurant had been diagnosed with the virus. It is standard practice to notify the public when someone who works in the restaurant industry is diagnosed with the virus, White said.
After the announcement, the county health department received a swarm of phone calls and a steady stream of concerned residents seeking vaccinations. The announcement was precautionary and does not mean that the food at McDonald’s was ever contaminated, White said.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can range in severity from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a severe illness that lasts months, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine, light stools and jaundice.
The virus is relatively rare. Nationally, about 20,000 new cases of hepatitis A are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. There has been more than a 90 percent decrease in people with hepatitis A in the past 20 years.