ADH warns of Hep A exposure at gas station

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas Department of Health is warning of possible Hepatitis A exposure after an employee at a Walnut Ridge gas station tested positive for the virus.

The gas station is the Doublebee's located at 1003 Hwy. 63, according to a Tuesday news release by the ADH.

Anyone who ate at the station between April 7 and April 18 should seek care immediately if they have never been vaccinated against Hep A or are unsure of their vaccination status.

One man who spoke to Region 8 News Tuesday said he eats chicken from the gas station on a regular basis and plans to get vaccinated.

He is more worried, though, about his mother, who also eats there often.

"She's in Tulsa, she's at a cancer treatment center," James Larkin said. "Her body is struggling right now."

Larkin worries that since his mother's immune system is already weak, another possible infection could be detrimental.

The family has been in contact with her doctors, though.

The Lawrence County Local Health Unit (LHU) in Walnut Ridge will hold a walk-in clinic to provide vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 25. It is located at 1050 W Free St. in Walnut Ridge.

Those who cannot make it to the clinic will need a vaccine in the next week to prevent illness.

According to Dr. Shane Speights, the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, there are around 2,500 cases reported per year, mainly due to outbreaks like the one Region 8 is seeing right now.

"Whenever an outbreak like this happens and you think you might be a victim of it you should seek advice and care through your physician," Speights said. "At that time, vaccination is still a possibility and still warranted and we can do testing later in the course to actually identify whether you have truly been infected."

ADH states there is no specific treatment if a person gets Hep A, but the illness can be prevented, even after exposure, by getting a vaccine or medicine called immune globulin.

This notification comes days after another potential exposure was reported in Corning.

The virus is usually spread when a someone ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person, the ADH states. It can also be spread through unprotected sex or sharing of injection drugs.

According to the ADH:

Typical symptoms of Hep A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear.

Region 8 News will have more information as details emerge. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up to the minute updates.

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