American Airlines passengers on CLT flight alerted to possible hepatitis A exposure

American Airlines alerted passengers on a recent flight from San Francisco to Charlotte of possible hepatitis A exposure, a spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County Health Department confirmed Saturday.

County health officials spoke by phone with all 18 passengers from the Charlotte area who were aboard the Sept. 21 flight, and all have since been vaccinated against the virus, health department spokeswoman Rebecca Carter told The Charlotte Observer.

“The risk was only to the passengers on the flight,” Carter said, explaining why health officials didn’t issue a general county alert. “There was no risk to the public.”

A vaccination prevents the hepatitis A liver disease caused by the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, cdc.gov. Hepatitis A causes “fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice,” with symptoms disappearing in about 2 months, officials say on the site.

“It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water,” CDC officials say on the site.

Carter and an American Airlines spokeswoman said they did not know what caused the possible exposure. Efforts to obtain comment from a CDC spokesman Saturday were unsuccessful.

American Airlines spokeswoman Crystal Byrd, however, issued this statement from the airline:

“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority. We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials and will coordinate with them on any required health and safety related measures.”

The county is already in the midst of what federal health officials said is a hepatitis A outbreak.

From April 2018 to June 2019, Mecklenburg County had 39 hepatitis A cases, including 12 since Jan. 1, the latest available health department figures show. Cases have risen nationally since 2012, officials said.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.