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Hundreds come for Hepatitis A vaccine after Papa John’s employee gets sick

Hundreds of people received vaccinations against Hepatitis A Saturday after a Charlotte Papa John’s employee was diagnosed with the virus within the past week.

They flocked to the impromptu clinic at the Cato campus of Central Piedmont Community College, not far from the Papa John’s at 8016 Cambridge Commons Drive near the Mecklenburg-Cabarrus county line.

The two counties do not keep large quantities of Hepatitis A vaccines on hand because it’s not common, said Suzanne Knight, clinical director for Cabarrus Health Alliance. On Friday, Cabarrus County vaccinated 419 people who ate pizza from the restaurant between March 24 and April 7, and Mecklenburg County vaccinated 308.

The counties received 4,000 adult doses and 1,000 pediatric doses from the state Saturday morning, and officials said they had a hard time estimating how many people could have eaten from one of the 2,400 pizza orders in that time-frame. The vaccine works when it’s given within two weeks of exposure, health officials said.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, 466 people had gone to the Cato campus for the free shots, and Paula Black, director of clinical services for the Mecklenburg Health Department, said she expected more than 500 by the end of the day. The clinic, at 8120 Grier Road in Cato Building 2, will be open Sunday from 1-5 p.m.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website.

Pam Bryant, who had eaten pizza from the Papa John’s last weekend, came into the clinic Saturday for a vaccination.

“I’m just doing it mostly out of responsibility more than anything,” she said. “I work with kids, and I’d hate to think if I got sick, they’d get sick too.”

She said she wasn’t particularly worried, but that the virus added an extra hassle for her 16-year-old son, who traveled right after finding out about it and got himself vaccinated in Oklahoma.

Robert and Barbara Herms came to get their shots too. “We didn’t get too upset,” Barbara said. “It’s no big deal, it’s not Papa John’s’ fault. It won’t deter us from eating there again – people get sick.”

Knight and Black said the best prevention for Hepatitis A is thorough hand washing and preparing food with gloves. They said people with symptoms including nausea, vomiting and jaundice should see a doctor.

Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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