Health officials say recent customers of an Edible Arrangements store in Murray may have been exposed to hepatitis A.
Those who ate fruit baskets or other items from the store at 5211 S. State St. between March 21 and April 13 may be at risk if they have not previously received a vaccination for the viral disease, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.
The possible exposure occurred when an employee infected with hepatitis A worked while ill. About 600 arrangements of edible items were sold from the store during the time in question, the health department estimated.
The latest warning is linked to an ongoing outbreak in Utah underway since last summer, resulting in dozens of hospitalizations among the homeless population. It also recently caused two deaths.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food closed the Murray outlet Tuesday afternoon. The store will be sanitized before reopening, health officials said, and store employees will be vaccinated before they return to work.
A key concern for public health experts — even as the outbreak now appears to be winding down — is that the disease could jump into the general population and spread exponentially. That could occur through a restaurant exposure, though scares earlier this year at a West Jordan 7-Eleven and a trio of Utah County food establishments did not ultimately result in any additional cases, health officials have said.
Health officials said customers who consumed products from the store in the relevant timeframe are urged to call 385-468-INFO (4636) to receive instructions; the phone line will be staffed through Friday.
Similar phone banks helped dozens of people receive vaccinations after the previous restaurant exposures.
But for those who ate from the store between March 21 and April 3, it is too late to receive the vaccination, officials said, so they need to watch for symptoms of hepatitis A and notify their doctor if they feel sick. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin.
Customers of the store who know they are already vaccinated against the disease should not call the health department.
Officials said due to the extended incubation period for hepatitis A, they will not know if anyone has been sickened by the Edible Arrangements store exposure for at least two to seven weeks.
Dagmar Vitek, the health department’s medical director, said all food stores and restaurants should consider vaccinating their employees. “It’s also important that food handlers be conscientious with hygiene, hand washing and not working when ill — and that managers be vigilant in enforcing those important requirements that help protect public health,” he said.
Salt Lake County has confirmed 153 cases of hepatitis A since the outbreak began, but county health department spokesman Nicholas Rupp said earlier this month that the spread of the disease appeared to be slowing. The number of new cases reported weekly recently dropped to about four to six, from eight to 10 several months ago.
Utah County has reported an additional 45 cases related to the outbreak, all related to the homeless and jail populations. But the county hasn’t seen a new case for two months, and officials believe the disease’s spread may be halted, Utah County Health Department Nursing Director Steve Mickelson said Wednesday.
“Knock on wood, but we’re still good from February,” Mickelson said. “We’d like to keep it that way.”