A food handler at a Merrick 7-Eleven may have exposed customers to hepatitis A between Feb. 1 and Wednesday, Nassau County officials said Friday.
County officials are urging anyone who consumed food or drinks prepared at the 7-Eleven at 1555 Jerusalem Ave.between Feb. 24 and Wednesday, or used the toilet facility there during that time, to obtain a vaccine for hepatitis A and/or the infection-fighting medication immune globulin.
The vaccine and immune globulin is only effective in preventing hepatitis A within two weeks of exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county will provide free injections of the vaccine and immune globulin from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday at Nassau Community College’s CCB Building, 1 Education Dr., Garden City, and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at the county Department of Health, 200 County Seat Dr., Mineola. For more information, call 516-227-9570 until 8 p.m. on Friday and between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Anyone who may have been exposed between Feb. 1 and Feb. 23 should consult a health provider and be alert for symptoms, which include yellowing of the eyes and skin, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and diarrhea, said Mary Ellen Laurain, spokeswoman for the county health department. Symptoms can emerge from 15 to 50 days after exposure.
Those who had hepatitis A in the past cannot contract the disease again, and people who have had the two-dose vaccine in the past also do not need to take action, she said.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that leads to illnesses that can range from mild to severe — and in rare cases death, the CDC says. Symptoms typically last up to two months.
The hepatitis A virus is spread through fecal matter that can, even in microscopic quantities, be transmitted through food, drinks and objects, according to the New York State Department of Health. Handwashing with soap and water after using the toilet helps prevent transmission.
There were about 4,000 hepatitis A cases in the United States in 2016, a 95 percent decline since the vaccine first became available in 1995, according to the CDC.
In Nassau County, there were 11 confirmed cases in 2018 and 15 in 2017, Laurain said. The last county health department investigation involving a food handler was in 2016, she said.
Laurain said the 7-Eleven food handler “is not working and the person will not be permitted to go back to work until they have established the criteria that they are not able to transmit the virus.”
For more information on hepatitis A, go to cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm.