A McDonald’s franchise in the town of Northport, Alabama reported to state health officials the possibility that customers may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus during a particular interval between February 28 and March 14 (2012). The report was fairly detailed as to times. People that dined at the restaurant (whether dining in or through the drive-thru) on March 14 in particular were implored to contact their doctors and be tested for the virus if possible. According to health officials, if someone gets the vaccine for Hepatitis A within fourteen days of being exposed to it, they can prevent the virus from becoming full-blown. This was the reason for the particular dates and the recommendation of testing. People that visited this McDonald’s location on the other possible days would have already exhibited symptoms from the virus. With the exception of the one McDonald’s employee that started the whole uproar, no one has actually been diagnosed with the Hepatitis A virus at this point.
A person that actually has Hepatitis A becomes a very real danger to those around him, especially if proper hygiene tactics are not observed. The announcement about the Northport McDonald’s did not include detailed information, but it is supposed that the employee that turned out to have Hepatitis A may have set off the alarming chain of events because of fears that the person did not demonstrate good handwashing techniques. To stop Hepatitis A from spreading, a person needs to wash their hands in warm water with soap for at least twenty seconds, and they must make sure to cover all areas of the hands, meaning under fingernails and around the wrists as well.
It may seem like the McDonald’s franchise overreacted with the reporting of this latest scare because no actual cases have been reported. However, McDonald’s has already came under fire for not reporting a serious incident back in 2009. In Rock Island, Illinois, a McDonald’s employee was found to be positive for Hepatitis A, and yet the franchise chose not to report the incident until more than three weeks later. When it was all said and done, the single employee with the virus may have exposed 10,000 customers or more to it. 20 cases were confirmed in Illinois, assumed to be a result of the exposure. Free clinics were held at local high schools to try to encourage people that may have contracted the virus to get tested and get the vaccine before more cases broke out.
The incident was so severe that the Rock Island County Health Department actually closed the restaurant for three days to make sure it was properly cleaned and sanitized. Quite possibly, McDonald’s has learned its lesson and is going above and beyond to make sure it reports this new incident early and publicly.
While the clock is ticking to see if any Alabamians contracted the virus, the good news is that even when the virus goes full-blown, it rarely has permanent effects. Abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting, and fever are symptoms that typically show up within 15 to 50 days after the virus is contracted. As long as the virus is treated promptly and correctly, full recoveries will be expected.