At least 50 people have been sickened by hepatitis A in Virginia. One person died and another required a liver transplant. These cases were linked to a restaurant worker who was employed at multiple locations of a local chain. Although the spread of the disease is thought to have been contained, officials warn that more cases could emerge.
Officials with the Alleghany Health Districts and Roanoke City announced that 10 people were sickened by the virus in September. All of these cases could be traced back at Famous Anthonys restaurant chain. The probable source was eventually found to be an employee who had recently worked at three locations where cases were reported and had tested positive for the virus.
Officials announced that the first victim of the outbreak was a 75-year old man who had frequented the restaurant. Another victim required a liver transplant. Local media outlets were informed this week by health officials that they had confirmed that 51 cases had been identified so far. 31 patients ended up being admitted to the hospital.
Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation. Certain viruses are the most common cause. Despite their branding, the five main causes of viral hepatitis (A-E) are not related, although they can cause similar acute symptoms. These symptoms include fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, and abdominal pain. Hepatitis B or C can lead to chronic infections and long-term liver damage. However, A and E can cause self-limiting, if not very unpleasant, bouts. Hepatitis D, which is a co-infection of hepatitis B, is a strange virus among viruses. Hepatitis A, like B and C can also be spread by contact with bodily fluids. However, it is also a foodborne disease.
The initial infection was in August. Later victims were exposed until August 27. Officials are confident that there has been no further transmission of the virus, as it has an incubation time of 50 days. However, it is possible that additional cases related to the original outbreak may be reported as a result of the fact that a small number of people can still be symptomatic for up to six more months. There is also the possibility of secondary infections. Famous Anthonys has been responsible for 39 of the 50 cases. However, one case was probably contracted from someone who was sick at the restaurant.
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Hepatitis A is not a problem for some Americans but not all Americans. There has been a vaccine available since the 1990s. Every person should be vaccinated at the age of one. Protection has been proven to last at most 20 years, and could even last a lifetime. It is only mandatory for half of the country's school children. Restaurant workers who might be from countries that don't offer vaccination may also be at risk. Due to large-scale outbreaks, hepatitis A cases in the United States have been increasing in recent years.
Virginia health officials organized vaccination clinics in response to the outbreak. The vaccine can be administered quickly enough to prevent infection even after the exposure.