JACKSON, Miss. (WMC) - Authorities with the Mississippi State Department of Health are investigating a hepatitis A exposure in DeSoto County.
Official reports say an employee at Papa John’s Pizza in Horn Lake has been diagnosed with the hepatitis A infection. The restaurant is located at 906 Goodman Rd.
The infected employee was working at the restaurant from Jan. 28, 2020 to Feb. 11, 2020. Anyone who has eaten at the restaurant or received a pizza delivery could have been exposed to hepatitis A, according to MSDH.
We spoke to a Horn Lake woman, who asked not to be identified. She recently ordered food from the location on Goodman Road. She learned about the hepatitis A diagnosis on the news.
"It said Horn Lake and I was like, wait a minute, then it said Papa John’s and I said, hold up, I just ate their last week,” she told WMC.
Health officials said if you are within 14 days of exposure, vaccination can prevent hepatitis A. After 14 days, customers should watch for any possible symptoms of hepatitis A and see their doctor if they become ill.
Hepatitis A can be transmitted by close personal contact or by ingesting food or drinks that are contaminated with feces of an infected person.
Symptoms include fever, nausea and abdominal pain.
Health officials say, Mississippi, like many other states, is currently seeing a hepatitis A outbreak.
"The more cases that we see in the general population the more likely it'll be that we'll also see some food handlers or restaurant workers who may also be infected,” said Mississippi State Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
According to the state health department, there have been 165 confirmed hepatitis A cases in the state since April 1, 2019 through February 9, 2020. Seventy percent of them resulted in hospitalization. There have been no deaths.
When you look at cases by county, the northern and southern ends of Mississippi have the most confirmed cases, according to data from the health department.
As for the recent Papa John’s customer, she says it might be a while before she eats out again."It’s going to make me think ten times about going to that location, but also just anywhere to eat out in general,” she said.
Papa John’s sent WMC the following statement:
“Papa John’s is committed to the health and safety of our employees and guests and working closely with the Health Department. Papa John’s is continuing to uphold a commitment to the highest health and food safety standards within all restaurants, which includes the Horn Lake community restaurant. The employee in question is on leave and will not return to work until cleared by the Health Department. All food and supplies have been discarded and new supplies and food are in use. While the risk of contracting Hepatitis A from Papa John’s is very low, people who have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A and have consumed food between January 28th - February 11th, should consider getting the Hepatitis A vaccine not more than two weeks from the potential exposure to help prevent infection. Papa John’s is encouraging guests as well as the public, who may have questions or concerns, to reach out to our customer care line at 877-311-4861.”
If you think you have been exposed, you can receive a vaccination free of charge from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 20 and Feb. 21 at the DeSoto County Health Department located at 8705 Northwest Drive, Building A, Suite 1 in Southaven.
The Department of Health would like to remind everyone that you can prevent spreading hepatitis A by carefully washing your hands with soap and water. This includes under the fingernails, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing food.