• Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

L.A. County investigating hepatitis A case at Beverly Hills Whole Foods

L.A. County investigating hepatitis A case at Beverly Hills Whole Foods

Los Angeles County health officials are investigating a reported case of hepatitis A in an employee of a Whole Foods supermarket in Beverly Hills and are warning of possible public exposure to the highly contagious liver infection.

Officials warned that anyone who purchased products from the seafood counter at the grocery store on Crescent Drive between April 20 and May 13 could be affected and urged those not already immune to hepatitis A to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The virus has also recently been found among members of the county’s homeless population.

Hepatitis A is found in the stool and blood of those infected and can spread among people even before they have symptoms, which include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dark urine and yellowing of the eyes and skin.

“Receiving vaccination as soon as possible after exposure could help reduce the risk of developing hepatitis A infection,” the county Public Health Department said in a statement. “Residents should contact their local pharmacy or medical provider for the vaccine.”

Whole Foods said it was working closely with the department.

“The team member diagnosed is not working, and we are not aware of anyone else becoming ill,” the company said in a statement. “While we have strict food safety processes in place in our stores, we encourage anyone who believes they may have been exposed to follow the guidance of the health department.”

While no other infections have been reported related to the Whole Foods case, county health officials said this week that they have identified an outbreak of five hepatitis A cases since March among people who are homeless.

Officials said the risk to the general public is “low” but urged anyone who may have been exposed to check if they have been vaccinated.

Homeless people are at a higher risk for contracting the virus due to decreased access to hand washing and toilet facilities, officials said.

California’s last known hepatitis A outbreak occurred between 2016 and 2018, mostly among people experiencing homelessness or using drugs in settings with limited sanitation. In San Diego — which also experienced a hepatitis A outbreak in 2017 — health officials last year reported an uptick in cases among homeless people.

Times staff writer Ruben Vives contributed to this report.

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