Lord Fairfax Health District Advises Residents of Hepatitis A Risk

October 24, 2019

Media Contact: Risk Communications Manager Lorrie Andrew-Spear, Lorrie.Andrew-Spear@vdh.virginia.gov

(Winchester, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health issues the following alert: The Lord Fairfax Health District has learned that Clearbrook Shopping Center at 3522 Martinsburg Pike, in Clear Brook received green peppers potentially contaminated with hepatitis A virus. Anyone who ate green peppers at this restaurant from October 18 through 23 may have been exposed to hepatitis A. The risk to the public from this exposure is low, but health officials share this information in an effort to keep the community informed.

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. The classic symptom of hepatitis A is jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or the eyes. Other symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Symptoms develop 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus, which can occur through direct contact with another person who has the infection or by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated with the virus.

“Hepatitis A is a serious infection of the liver. It can cause weeks of very unpleasant illness, and may require hospitalization in up to 50 percent of cases. Most seriously, in about one patient out of 100 it may cause death from liver failure,” said Colin Greene, M.D., director of the Lord Fairfax Health District.  “If you think you may have been exposed, and are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please contact your healthcare provider immediately to be evaluated. It is also crucial for people who have symptoms of hepatitis A to stay home from work, especially if they work in food service.”

Health officials are not aware of any other cases of hepatitis A related to this exposure. VDH recommends that anyone who ate at this restaurant between October 18 and 23, 2019, and has not been immunized against hepatitis A, see a healthcare provider to receive vaccine or immune globulin to prevent hepatitis A infection. Vaccination is most effective if received within two weeks of exposure.

Hepatitis A is spread through contaminated feces.  Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and before preparing food, can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Routine vaccination against hepatitis A has reduced the risk of this disease in the past decade. Vaccination is available to anyone, but specifically recommended for all children, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus. Hepatitis A vaccine is available from health care providers (including some pharmacies and travel clinics) to protect against this disease.

Contact your local health department with any questions concerning this investigation. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/hepatitis-a/.

The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.