The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is investigating a case of Hepatitis A in a DeSoto County restaurant employee which may have led to possible exposure for customers.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers told the DeSoto Times-Tribune Wednesday morning the Papa John’s pizza restaurant, 906 Goodman Road West in Horn Lake, had an employee on staff who was discovered to have the virus and who was working at Papa John’s between Jan. 28 and Feb. 11.
Byers stressed customers should have no concerns about getting pizza from the restaurant at this time.
“There is no risk of Hepatitis A currently at this facility,” Byers said. “There is no reason for people to be concerned about that. We’re talking about a point in time when one infected food worker was there and the time when that worker was infectious.”
Byers said the infection was discovered through reporting of the presence of Hepatitis A found on the unidentified employee.
“Hepatitis A is a reportable condition in Mississippi,” Byers said. “Anytime a doctor or a hospital or a laboratory picks up acute Hepatitis A, that is immediately reportable to the state Department of Health. At that point, we do an investigation to determine what the individual’s risk factors may be for infection and to find out in particular if they work in a situation where there may be a risk of transmission to other individuals.”
Byers added the management and staff at the Horn Lake Papa John’s have been working with the department in the matter.
“Anytime we have one of these situations occur where an individual whose been in a restaurant and is infected, one of the things we always do is work closely with the restaurant and the management,” Byers said. “In this particular case, they have been very cooperative and very helpful.”
Byers said those who may have had pizza from the Horn Lake Papa John’s during the time period should be mindful of possible symptoms of the virus and see their doctor if they become ill.
Those symptoms include fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), abdominal pain and dark colored urine.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool (feces) from an infected person.
The disease is considered a contagious liver disease. Byers said the risk is likely very low for people in this case who have contracted Hepatitis A, but free vaccinations are being offered at the DeSoto County Health Department office in Southaven, 8705 Northwest Drive, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 21.
Those who may have been exposed between Jan. 28 and Feb. 5 should watch for any possible symptoms of Hepatitis A and see their doctor if they become ill.
Everyone can prevent the spread of Hepatitis A by carefully washing hands with soap and water, including under the fingernails, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
There is an ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak in Mississippi and surrounding states affecting those who use drugs, those who are in jail or were recently in jail, those with unstable housing or who are homeless, and men who have sex with men. The MSDH continues to recommend Hepatitis A vaccination for those specific groups as well.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.