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January 26, 2024

Philly health officials warn of hepatitis A exposures at ShopRite in Northeast Philly

Some customers are advised to get vaccinated after an employee fell ill with the liver disease earlier this month

Illness Hepatitis A
012624 ShopRite Hep A Google/Street View

An employee at the ShopRite at 6301 Oxford Ave. has a confirmed case of hepatitis A, Philadelphia health officials said. Exposed customers are asked to get a preventative vaccine.

Philadelphia's health department confirmed an employee at a Northeast Philly ShopRite has a case of hepatitis A.

No other cases have been reported and no other stores have been affected by the outbreak, health officials said, but customers who may have been exposed are advised to get two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. 

The employee worked at the ShopRite store at 6301 Oxford Ave.

Customers who purchased pork or beef from the store's meat counter between Jan. 4 and Jan. 21 and either handled raw meat or consumed undercooked meat are recommended to get vaccinated as soon as possible. However, people who have or have had hepatitis A, and those who have received two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine, don't need a vaccine. 

Meat purchased during that period should be discarded as a precautionary measure, though heating foods to 185 degrees for at least a minute can kill hepatitis A. Cold temperatures do not kill the virus, the health department said. 

"This is an isolated incident at one store, no additional illnesses have been reported and the risk of exposure and infection is very low," a spokesperson for Wakefern, the corporation that owns ShopRite, told PhillyVoice. 

"As soon as we received notification from the Department of Health, we took immediate action to deep clean and sanitize the store, including all knives, cases, and equipment and work surfaces per required food safety protocols," the spokesperson continued. "Any food that may have been handled by the associate is no longer in the store."

Health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Hepatitis A is a liver infection that spreads when people don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom. Waterborne outbreaks are infrequent but can happen, usually with sewage-contaminated water.

Many people don't develop symptoms until two to six weeks after contracting the illness. Symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting, which can be mild, as well as fever, low energy, stomach pain and dark urine. Most people can heal at home, although some need to be hospitalized for treatment. No medications treat hepatitis A. 

Those who develop symptoms are asked to call a doctor immediately. Thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before preparing food helps prevent the illness from spreading. 

The health department will host a vaccine clinic Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the District Health Center at 2230 Cottman Ave. in Northeast Philly for people who might have been exposed. Hepatitis C Allies of Philadelphia has a list of pharmacies offering hepatitis A vaccines for those who have insurance. 

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