LOS ANGELES – A worker at a street-side fruit vendor in Lancaster was infected with hepatitis A, putting customers at risk for the infectious disease, according to an advisory issued Monday by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
“The fruit vendor was located on the corner of West Avenue L and 20th Street West in Lancaster… Anyone who bought fruit from the vendor’s fruit cart (at this location) during the period of August 15 through August 22 may be at risk for hepatitis A,” health officials said in the advisory.
Those who ate products from the fruit vendor should receive an immune globulin (IG) shot or hepatitis A vaccination within the next week to prevent or reduce illness, health officials said.
The county will offer free vaccinations to anyone who may have been exposed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the Antelope Valley Public Health Center, located at 335-B East Avenue K6 in Lancaster. The local health center can be reached at 661-471-4860.
“We are actively investigating this situation. It is important that anyone who may have bought or consumed fruit from this vendor during the period of August 15 through August 22 should contact their doctor to discuss possible hepatitis A prevention and treatment options,” stated Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer, Los Angeles County. “Those who purchased this product should discard any remaining fruit if still found in their home.”
This new case may be linked to the outbreaks of hepatitis A infections occurring in San Diego and Santa Cruz counties, authorities said in the advisory.
“The large majority of those cases have occurred in persons who are homeless and/or use illicit drugs (injection and non-injection), with several cases also occurring among people who provide services to the homeless. The [Lancaster] worker with hepatitis A who worked at the fruit stand had previously spent time in San Diego, has received care, and is no longer infectious,” the L.A. County health advisory states.
Public Health has confirmed three cases of hepatitis A among high-risk individuals who lived in San Diego during their exposure period, as well as three secondary cases that occurred in a health facility in Los Angeles County. Public Health has not identified any new cases associated with the fruit cart.
Hepatitis A virus [HAV] causes acute liver disease, which may be severe. It is transmitted by contact with the feces of a person who is infected – often through contact with food or water or during sex or other close contact. Signs and symptoms of acute HAV include fever, malaise, dark urine, lack of appetite, nausea, and stomach pain, followed by jaundice. Symptoms generally last for less than two months, although some people may have prolonged or more severe illness.
“Infection can be prevented in close contacts of patients by vaccination within two weeks of exposure or administration of immune globulin… Persons who have been vaccinated against hepatitis A or have received IG within the last three months or have ever had laboratory confirmed infection with the hepatitis A virus also do not need an injection of IG,” according to the county health advisory.
For more information on Public Health clinics, visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/chs/phcenters.htm or call the LA County Information line at 2-1-1 from any landline or cell phone within the county.