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Bloomington addresses hepatitis A outbreak with free vaccines



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File image of vaccinations. IU Health Community Health and the Monroe County Public Health Department are giving free vaccines until Feb. 7 to those who ate at Yumble on Jan. 24. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Free vaccinations are available for anyone exposed to the most recent outbreak of hepatitis A at a Bloomington restaurant.

In the past month and a half, three cases have been reported of Bloomington restaurant employees exposing patrons to hepatitis A. The most recent case was at Bloomington-based restaurant Yumble on Jan. 24.

“We are being extra cautious,” said Penny Caudill, a health administrator at Monroe County Health Department, in a press release. “When any food service worker becomes ill, there is a risk to the public.” 

Other recent cases occurred at Buffalo Wild Wings Jan. 2 to 6 and the Shalom Center between Dec. 13 and 24. 

For each case, patrons who could have been infected were offered free vaccines at Monroe County Public Health Clinic on 333 E. Miller Drive. The clinic is giving free vaccines to anyone who could have been exposed to the disease at Yumble until Feb. 7.

Hepatitis A is spread through objects, food or drink contaminated by an infected person as well as sexual contact or other close  contact. Symptoms begin 15 to 50 days after exposure and include fatigue, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice, according to a press release from IU Health Bloomington. 

When combined with chronic diseases, hepatitis A can be fatal.

Since January 2017, more than 950 cases of hepatitis A have been documented in Indiana, including 20 in Monroe County, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. 

Amy Meek, clinical manager of IU Health Monroe County Public Health Clinic, said in the same press release many recent cases of hepatitis A in Indiana have required hospitalization.

“The best way to prevent disease is get vaccinated and practice good hand washing,” Meek said.

IU Health’s Monroe County Public Health Clinic vaccinated over 1,100 people last month in response to the outbreak.

Hepatitis A vaccinations involve two vaccines over the course of more than six months, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Students are required to get the vaccination for public school in Indiana in fourth, sixth and 12th grade as of May 2018, according to the Indiana state website.

Patrons who mays have been exposed at Bloomington restaurants should monitor their symptoms for 50 days after the possible exposure, according to the Monroe County Health Department.

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