Customers who ate at one NC Hardee’s should get hepatitis A vaccination

(WSOC)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Vaccinations continue Thursday for those possibly exposed to hepatitis A at a North Carolina Hardee’s fast food restaurant.

WSOC reported that about 1,100 people waited in line Wednesday to receive their free vaccination shot after a hepatitis A exposure.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department is urging people who ate at the Hardee’s on Little Rock Road in west Charlotte to get a hepatitis A vaccination as soon as possible.

“After consulting with the state today, we are recommending a vaccination for exposed employees and patrons who ate at the 2604 Little Rock Road location between June 13 and 23,” Health Director Gibbie Harris said in a statement.

Officials said as many as 4,000 people ate at the restaurant over that 10-day period.

Harris said you must be vaccinated within 14 days of coming into contact with hepatitis A. There have been 12 cases of hepatitis A this year — 10 since April 20.

Health officials said the outbreak identified by the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month has led to five more cases since June 6, including a Hardee’s employee diagnosed Monday.

County officials said they are working with the state to warn potentially impacted people about the hepatitis A concerns.

The health department also said they are beefing up outreach efforts and plan to distribute educational material to people in high-risk groups.

There wasn’t a doctor in the room when the health director told commissioners about the Hardee’s connection and Commissioner Pat Cotham wants that to change.

The county will not say how the employee at Hardee’s got the disease. The county is keeping track of all the people who received the vaccinations.

The health department said it is going to distribute information to community groups, partner organizations and gay bars. The county is also using social media, paid marketing and coordinating clinics to reach out to high-risk groups.

Officials said the employee who tested positive for hepatitis A handled food and that’s why others may have been exposed.

The health department found out Monday that the employee was diagnosed with the liver disease but waited until Tuesday to notify the public.

The health director said that if the employee who was diagnosed with hepatitis A was not handling food, she may not have told the public about it at all.

The Hardee’s restaurant voluntarily closed Tuesday afternoon and a new sign on the restaurant’s door Wednesday said it would be closed indefinitely.

The county conducted an environmental assessment and said it found nothing to shut the restaurant down. The Hardee’s received A’s on the county’s inspections in January and August.

The vaccine must be given within 14 days of exposure for it to be effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just 500 doses of the vaccine cost about $12,000, and the state is paying for the vaccinations because it has been classified as an outbreak.

There are three different strains of the virus, hepatitis A, B and C, and all involve infections of the liver.

Hepatitis A, the strain in Charlotte’s outbreak, is not chronic. Unlike hepatitis B and C, most people recover from hepatitis A with no lasting liver damage, and it’s also very rare for someone to die from it.

The symptoms of hepatitis A are the same for all strains: fever, fatigue, nausea or jaundice and they can appear two weeks to six months after exposure.

Officials said they are setting up a hotline for staff to answer questions about the potential exposure, but the number isn’t available yet.