(CNN) — A Starbucks employee in New Jersey who went to work in November after testing positive for hepatitis A and handling food may have exposed thousands of customers to the virus.
Hepatitis A exposure includes anyone who has the… Starbucks at 1490 Blackwood Clementon Road on Nov. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13, according to county spokesman Dan Keashen.
The Camden County health department was notified of the incident Wednesday and immediately closed the Starbucks location in Gloucester Township, Keashen told CNN.
People who visited Starbucks and have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A will be advised to get the vaccine as soon as possible, but no later than 14 days after contact, the health department said in a statement. press release on Friday.
“The county health department has been working closely with the patient and Starbucks staff to address the situation,” Camden County Health Officer Paschal Nwako said in a statement. press release.
“Our highest priority is to ensure that everyone involved remains safe and healthy. The patient is currently out of work and close contacts have been identified. We encourage anyone who believes they have been exposed to get vaccinated against hepatitis A by calling the provincial health department or your GP.”
Public health officials provided 17 hepatitis A vaccines to Starbucks employees on Thursday and set up a nearby pop-up vaccine clinic Friday and Saturday, Keashen said.
So far, 800 vaccines have been administered, which Keashen says is the largest vaccine against hepatitis A in the state’s history.
“Starbucks says that location is busy, like most,” Keashen said. “They say they have an average of 600 customers a day and some are repeat customers who might go several times a day…but the exposure is probably in the thousands.”
Starbucks visitors ‘must absolutely be vaccinated’
The Starbucks employee who contracted the virus is recovering. So far, no one has tested positive for hepatitis A as a result of the exposure, the spokesperson said.
“I found out that my daughter and I may have both been exposed to hepatitis A. I was able to get my vaccination today and I’m finally feeling good,” Keashen said. CNN affiliate WABC.
“If you have come into contact with material that came out of the drive-thru or you have entered the building yourself, you absolutely must get vaccinated.”
Due to the limited number of vaccines in the state, it was not an easy task to collect the right amount of doses.
“We had our public health department employees drive across the state, in some cases hundreds of miles, to pick up vaccines statewide,” Keashen explained. “There are not many hepatitis A vaccine doses available in New Jersey.”
The province has successfully secured 500 doses for another pop-up clinic scheduled for Wednesday as demand for the vaccine continues to rise.
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver that is highly contagious and can be spread through close contact with an infected person or through consumption of contaminated food or drink, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice and usually appear two to six weeks after infection and last less than two months, according to the CDC.
Hepatitis A rates in the United States have fallen by more than 95% since the vaccine first became available in 1995, According to the CDC. Neighboring Philadelphia explained a public health emergency due to a rise in hepatitis A in 2019, with a high proportion of cases occurring among at-risk populations in Kensington.
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