The story begins with an employee at a Papa John’s Pizza in Charlotte, NC, who became ill on March 24th after traveling outside of the country. The virus was not confirmed through testing until April 7th, after the person had been admitted to the hospital for care. The local health department learned of the case on April 9th, and while the risk is probably fairly low, assuming good food safety measures were practiced, the Mecklenburg County Health Department is urging people who ordered food from the establishment between March 28th and April 7th to attend one of several free vaccine clinics, the first of which will be held today.
The Health Department also explains that people who would have been exposed from March 24th to the 27th fall outside of the two-week window when the vaccine would be effective. In these cases, people should monitor themselves for the common symptoms, which includes a fever, nausea, diarrhea, dark urine, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), and seek medical attention if they develop these problems.
The vaccine is considered effective within the two-week window because the hepatitis A virus requires an incubation period inside our bodies before we begin to feel sick, usually two to six weeks following exposure to the virus. You can learn more about the hepatitis A virus on the CDC’s website.
April 13 UPDATE: Over 1300 vaccines were administered to the public at the free clinics, out of an estimated 2000+ people who were potentially exposed.