Source is Panera worker: The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), in cooperation with Panera Bread in Montgomery, is investigating a food handler who is infected with the hepatitis A virus. As a preventive measure, ADPH is suggesting that customers who consumed food, whether dine-in, pickup, or delivery, between the dates of Jan. 26 and Feb. 5 be identified. These patrons may need the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin to reduce their chance of illness.

Customers who ate food prepared at the Panera Bread located at 2998 Carter Hill Rd. in Montgomery between the target dates should contact their health care provider, pharmacy, or the Montgomery County Health Department regarding getting the vaccine as soon as possible.

Panera Bread sent Alabama News Network the following statement:
“The health and safety of guests and associates is our top priority. We follow strict food safety policies and procedures. Out of an abundance of caution, we proactively closed the cafe early to undergo a deep cleaning upon learning of the illness. We are offering vaccinations for all associates in this cafe and are working closely with the Health Department to take all recommended steps. We encourage guests with questions to contact us at 1-855-3-PANERA.”

Foodservice establishments do not usually require that employees get the hepatitis A vaccine because only 2 to 3 percent of hepatitis cases are caused by restaurant food, and food workers are not at higher risk of having the disease than people in other occupations. In addition, high turnover at food establishments makes widespread vaccination impractical.

Emphasis on employees’ carefully washing hands, using disposable gloves, and not working when sick can greatly minimize the risk of spreading hepatitis A and a number of other infections in restaurants.

“Adults with hepatitis A may have symptoms that include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. These symptoms usually resolve within two months of infection,” said ADPH’s Dr. Burnestine Taylor. “Children less than 6 generally do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Almost all people who get hepatitis A recover completely.”

At least 15 states have been fighting hepatitis A outbreaks since March 2017. Although the CDC has been tracking the outbreaks, the agency hasn’t posted a comprehensive update for several months. Public health investigators have not found a common source of the infections, but more than 70 percent of the victims in many areas have been homeless people, substance abusers, or both.

People infected with the hepatitis A virus are usually contagious before symptoms develop. The virus can be spread from feces when infected people handle, prepare or serve foods and beverages fail to wash their hands after using the bathroom Read more HERE, HERE and HERE.