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Diner alert: Worker at 1 Panera restaurant had hepatitis A

February 12, 2019

An employee at a Panera Bread restaurant in Alabama has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, and people who ate food from that outlet from Jan. 24 through Feb. 5 may have been exposed to the disease, state authorities said.

No other case has been reported, either among the food-handler’s co-workers at 2998 Carter Hill Road in Montgomery or people who bought food there between the dates in question, Dr. Karen Landers, a physician with the Alabama Department of Public Health, said Tuesday.

She said the restaurant hasn’t reported how many meals the restaurant sold over the 15-day period, but is expected to do so.

“The number does not change what we do,” Landers said in a telephone interview from Sheffield, Alabama.

The risk of exposure from a restaurant food-handler is much less than that from someone within one’s own household, Landers noted.

Nevertheless, she said, people who ate at the restaurant or ate a carry-out or delivery meal from it during the period in question should be watchful for symptoms. Those whose meal was also within the past two weeks should get a hepatitis A vaccination, she said.

To be effective, the vaccine must be administered either before or within two weeks after exposure. It’s available through private physicians, pharmacies and the health department in Montgomery County, according to news releases sent Friday and Monday.

Because the vaccine has been recommended since 1996, children under 18 may already have been vaccinated, and others may have been vaccinated before traveling abroad, the release noted.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can include fever, headache, fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, dark urine or jaundice. They can show up 15 to 50 days after exposure, with an average of 28 days. No one needs to be tested for hepatitis A unless they have symptoms of the disease.

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McConnaughey reported from New Orleans.

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