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Arkansas residents urged to get vaccinated after possible hep A outbreak at a Red Lobster

A possible hepatitis A outbreak at a Red Lobster in Arkansas is prompting health officials to urge residents to get vaccinated.

The state’s Department of Health is recommending anyone who ate at the seafood chain restaurant in Fort Smith between July 19 and August 4 to immediately get the jab after an employee tested positive for the virus.

It comes just a day after officials had advised residents in Paragould, on the other side of the state, to get vaccinated after a hepatitis A outbreak at Little Caesars.

Since February, 80 people have come infected with the infectious disease in northeast Arkansas and one person had died.

Arkansas health officials issued a warning on Wednesday about a possible hepatitis A outbreak at a Red Lobster after a worker was revealed to have contracted the virus

Hepatitis A is a virus that attacks the body through liver inflammation. It is highly contagious and is typically spread through sexual contact, needle sharing, or by consuming food that has been contaminated by someone infected with the virus.

Those who are at risk of developing hepatitis A include drug users, men who have sex with men and homeless individuals. 

What is hepatitis A and how can it be treated? 

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can have both minor and severe symptoms for the person infected. 

It is primarily spread when a person who isn’t vaccinated ingests food or water that has been contaminated with feces of an infected individual.

The virus is one of the most frequent causes for foodborne infections.


The incubation period of hepatitis A is normally 14 to 28 days. 

People can experience:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea 
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Jaundice 
  • Acute liver failure 

Who is at risk?

Anyone who has not been vaccinated or has never been infected with the hepatitis A virus is at risk. 

Other factors that increase risk include:

  • Poor sanitation
  • Lack of clean water
  • Recreational drug use
  • Living with an infected person or having sexual relations with one
  • Traveling to areas with high risk without a vaccination


There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. 

It may take some people a couple weeks to a couple months to recover from the symptoms. 

Doctors recommend everyone to get a vaccination to help prevent the risk of getting infected by the virus.  

Source: World of Health

Symptoms – which include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and dark urine – can take anywhere from two to seven weeks after exposure to appear.

Although many who are infected show no symptoms, it can take a few months for the illness to pass. 

Health officials said the Red Lobster employee contracted the virus while traveling, according to 40/29 News.

Over the last two years, a resurgence of the infectious disease has hit at least eight states including Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia. 

There have been outbreaks of the disease across northeast Arkansas that health officials say have caused 80 people to become sick and one death since February.

However, health officials insist that hepatitis A that results in death is very rare and is most common in patients with other liver illnesses.

On Tuesday, an Arkansas Little Caesars Pizza employee tested positive for the virus, prompting health officials to urge anyone who ate at the location between July 19 and August 2 to get vaccinated.

The pizza chain announced in a statement that it would be temporarily closing so that the establishment could be ‘professionally cleaned and sanitized’. 

Management at the Red Lobster location has not announced whether or not it will be closed as well.

A statement was issued by Red Lobster’s Director of Communications Nicole Bott to 40/29 News that read: ‘The health and safety of our guests and team members is our top priority, and we are taking this matter seriously. We’re taking prompt and immediate action, working closely with the Arkansas Department of Health.’

The ADH is planning to issue free vaccines this weekend and next weekend in Sebastian County and Green County. 

The hep A vaccine only became mandatory for Arkansas residents entering kindergarten in 2014. The health department said that most adults are probably not inoculated.

Since January 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued hepatitis A alerts in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Utah and West Virginia.

The agency says the best way to prevent the spread of infection is to practice good personal hygiene, such as washing your hands, and to receive the hepatitis A vaccine, which is given as two shots that are six months apart.

In the US, there are three FDA approved hepatitis A vaccines: Vaqta, Havrix, and Twinrix.


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