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Hepatitis A outbreak hits Owen County

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Owenton McDonald’s closed Monday after employee reportedly infected

Update: 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 29: WALMART PHARMACY TO HOLD HEPATITIS A CLINIC AT LONG RIDGE BAPTIST CHURCH FAMILY CENTER
Walmart Pharmacy will be holding a hepatitis A clinic from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Thursday (Aug. 30), at the Long Ridge Baptist Church Family Center. Organizers of the clinic suggest bringing your insurance cards for zero co-pay. Medicaid patients age 19 and over only. Cash-paying patients will be charged $79. Long Ridge Baptist Church is located at 3575 US Hwy. 127.

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The Owenton McDonald’s was shut down by Three Rivers District Health Department just before 1 p.m., Monday after the department was notified that an employee of the fast-food restaurant has hepatitis A.
The employee reportedly handled food while he/she was ill or infectious at the 506 S. Main St. location between Aug. 16-27, according to a press release from TRDHD.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person, the CDC reports.
While it is relatively uncommon for restaurant patrons to become infected with the hepatitis A virus due to an infected food handler, TRDHD recommends anyone who consumed food or drinks at the Owenton McDonald’s between Aug. 16-27 receive a hepatitis A vaccination.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown-colored urine, light-colored stools and diarrhea. Yellowing of the skin or eyes – also known as jaundice – may also appear, according to TRDHD.
“People may have some or none of these symptoms,” TRDHD reported. “It could take almost seven weeks after being exposed to the virus for someone to become ill. Someone sick with hepatitis A is most likely to spread the virus during the two weeks before feeling sick and for one week after yellow eyes and skin start. Children often do not exhibit symptoms. Although rare, death can occur from this infection.”
Owenton McDonald’s management is cooperating with the investigation and response activities conducted by TRDHD.
“This is not any fault of McDonald’s, but purely an unfortunate circumstance of an employee that was sent home due to their illness,” a TRDHD spokesperson said Monday afternoon.
The fast-food restaurant opened back up for business around 8:30 p.m., Monday, following a “full-scale cleaning and inspection,” according to TRDHD.
Additionally, the Owenton McDonald’s contracted with Three Rivers District Health Department to vaccinate all of their employees free of charge.
As of press time Tuesday, the following health departments and pharmacies had the hepatitis A vaccination in stock or would be receiving the vaccination this week:

  • Owen County Health Department – 1005 Hwy. 22, Owenton – Offering the vaccination for the under- or uninsured as of press time Tuesday
  • HealthPoint Family Care – 120 Progress Way, Owenton – Expects to have the vaccination Thursday
  • Triad Health Systems Inc. – 327 N. Main St., Owenton – In stock as of press time Tuesday; Triad is giving hep A shots to their established patients at this time. Their plan is to provide a clinic in the near future for all other individuals. Triad accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most insurances. Therefore it is not a "free" service. Triad's services are based on a sliding fee scale for those without a third party payer. Triad will update its Facebook page when the clinic date has been established. Call 502-484-2117 with any questions.
  • Walmart – 200 Floyd Dr., Carrollton – In stock as of press time Tuesday
  • Kroger – 2549 Ky. 227, Carrollton – 20 vaccinations in stock as of press time Tuesday, ordering more
  • Walmart – 20 Ferguson Blvd., Dry Ridge – Over 300 vaccinations in stock as of press time Tuesday
  • Kroger Little Clinic – 302 Brighton Park Blvd., Frankfort – 21 vaccinations in stock as of press time Tuesday, expects to receive more Thursday
  • Walgreens – 385 Versailles Road, Frankfort – Short supply as of press time Tuesday
  • Walgreens – 1300 Hwy. 127 S., Frankfort – In stock as of press time Tuesday

People with health insurance or Medicaid should be able to get the vaccine for free but should check with their health insurance provider for coverage information, according to TRDHD.
TRDHD can provide the vaccine at its county health centers to those who do not have insurance, as well as those who have insurance that does not cover the vaccine.
The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart. The first shot provides short-term protection and the second shot provides long-term protection.
Since January, over 50 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in northern Kentucky. One death has been reported. There were no cases of hepatitis A among northern Kentucky residents last year.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in November 2017. Since then, more than 1,300 cases have been reported in the state compared to an average of 20 cases per year.
“Hepatitis A infection can be prevented through vaccination and frequent, proper hand washing,” TRDHD District Director Dr. Georgia Heise said. “Children, ages one through 18, are already required to be vaccinated against hepatitis A for school. We strongly encourage the vaccine for all adults. In this way, your entire family can have protection against this infection and help eliminate the spread of hepatitis A in northern Kentucky.” 

News-Herald Correspondent Brian Riddle contributed to this story.