Officials: Mecklenburg Papa John’s worker contracted hepatitis A

Mecklenburg County health officials are urging customers who ate food from a Papa John’s restaurant in the northeast part of the county from March 28 to April 7 to get a hepatitis A vaccine.

A worker at the restaurant, at 8016 Cambridge Commons Drive, became ill March 24 but wasn’t diagnosed until April 7 after he was hospitalized. The Health Department learned of his illness Wednesday, according to Health Director Dr. Marcus Plescia.

Plescia said the vaccine works when given within 14 days of exposure, so he said people who may have been exposed before March 28 would not benefit. He said anyone who ate at this Papa John’s location from March 24 to March 28 should watch for symptoms of infection, such as nausea, vomiting and jaundice, which would cause yellowing of the eyes and skin.

“If somebody has symptoms, particularly if they develop jaundice, those people should really seek medical care,” Plescia said.

For others who may have been exposed, free vaccines will be offered at a special clinic from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Mecklenburg County Health Department, 2845 Beatties Ford Road. Another free vaccine clinic will be held Saturday, in conjunction with Cabarrus County health officials, at a location to be announced.

Plescia said most children get a hepatitis A vaccine when they’re 1-year-old. That has been a recommendation for about eight years, so many children will be OK, he said. Adults who have had hepatitis A or had the vaccine in the past are protected, Plescia said. But the vaccine is recommended for other adults who think they may have been exposed.

About 2,400 food orders may have been served during the time that the Papa John’s worker was infected and before he was diagnosed. Plescia said the two counties will have about 5,000 doses of vaccine available.

The Papa John’s restaurant remains open, and officials there have been cooperating with the Health Department, Plescia said. He added that the location has a good inspection record. The infected worker had been traveling outside the country and may have become infected by eating contaminated food, Plescia said.

“We don’t want to create undue anxiety,” Plescia said. “Hepatitis A is generally not life-threatening. … But you can feel sick for several weeks. ... If you ate pizza from that Papa John’s between March 28 and April 7, you should consider being vaccinated for hepatitis A.”