Hep A outbreak

An employee at this Fort Smith restaurant may have spread hep A to some customers.

FORT SMITH – The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has scheduled two hepatitis A (hep A) vaccination clinics this week after an employee of the Red Lobster at 7401 Rogers Ave. in Fort Smith tested positive for the hep A virus, resulting in possible exposure to the public.

Clinics will take place at Ben Geren Park, 7700 S. Zero St. in Fort Smith at the community storm shelter:

-- Friday, August 10 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

-- Saturday, August 11 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The hep A vaccine is safe and effective. Vaccines are also available at many pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

Anyone who ate at Red Lobster in Fort Smith from July 19 to August 4 should seek vaccination immediately if they have never been vaccinated against hep A or are unsure of their vaccination status. This case appears to be related to travel outside of the state and is not thought to be part of the current hep A outbreak in Northeast Arkansas. There are no specific treatments once a person gets hep A. Illness can be prevented even after exposure by getting the vaccine or medicine called immune globulin. This medicine contains antibodies to hep A. The vaccine and medicine work best if given within two weeks of exposure to the virus. However, if it has been more than two weeks since potential exposure but symptoms have not yet developed, the vaccine may still be given.

Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek care immediately. Typical symptoms of hep A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

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