Officials from the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD), Utah, issued a statement Sunday stating that people who visited a West Jordan 7-Eleven store over the past two weeks might have been infected with hepatitis A virus.

The customers who visited the store at 2666 West 7800 South between Dec. 26, 2017 and Jan. 3 have been urged to contact the health department to receive vaccination and prevent the spread of the disease.

According to the press release issued by the SLCoHD, an infected employee worked at the store when ill and handled certain items. The department also said the exposure may have affected 2,000 people, adding the possible exposure affects only the single 7-Eleven location listed above.

According to the SLCoHD, those people who visited the store and either used the restroom there or had fresh fruits or fountain drink or other self-serve beverage or consumed any item from the store’s hot food case, like pizza, hot dogs, chicken wings, or taquitos, have been largely affected.

The press release states that packaged items, including bottled beverages and microwaved food, are not to be included in the possible exposure. 

Health department staff will screen callers for their exposure risk and provide them with options for receiving a prophylactic hepatitis A vaccine. The 385-468-INFO (4636) phone number will be staffed beginning Monday, Jan. 8 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

"People in need of prophylaxis must receive it within a short time period of their possible exposure, so it is essential that affected customers call the health department as soon as possible," the statement read.

Executive director of SLCoHD, Gary Edwards, said, “This is an important reminder to food service establishments that they should consider vaccinating their food-handling employees against hepatitis A.”

Edwards added, “It’s also important that food handlers be conscientious with hygiene, hand washing and not working when ill—and that managers be vigilant in enforcing those important requirements that help protect public health.”

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus that spreads when an uninfected person consumes food or water that is contaminated with the germs of an infected person. The disease is closely associated with unsafe water or food, inadequate sanitation, and poor personal hygiene.

Common facts about hepatitis A as described by WHO

  • Hepatitis A can cause mild to severe illness.
  • The hepatitis A virus is spread through the intake of contaminated food, water, or through direct contact with the person already infected.
  • Usually people recover completely but in certain cases a person may die from fulminant hepatitis.
  • The hepatitis A virus can be prevented through vaccine.

The first time that a vaccine for hepatitis A became available was in 1995; after that there has been a decline of more than 95 per cent in the number of people suffering from hepatitis A in the U.S. In 2015, nearly 2,800 cases of hepatitis A was found across 50 states, reported the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.