A Starbucks employee in New Jersey who handled food and later tested positive for hepatitis A may have infected thousands of customers.
County spokesman Dan Keashen said that anyone who visited the Starbucks at 1490 Blackwood Clementon Road on November 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, or 13 may have been exposed to hepatitis A.
The incident was reported to the Camden County Health Department last week by a health care provider. The Starbucks location was shut down right away, and an investigation revealed no evidence of any violations of food safety regulations.
In a statement released Thursday, Camden County Health Officer Paschal Nwako said the department was working with the employee and the café chain to resolve the matter.
"Our highest priority is ensuring everyone involved remains safe and healthy," Nwako said. "The patient is not currently working, and close contacts have been identified. We encourage anyone who may believe they were exposed to get vaccinated against hepatitis A by calling the county health department or your primary care physician."
The virus-infected Starbucks employee is now recovering. According to the representative, no one has tested positive for hepatitis A as a result of the exposure.
People who visited that Starbucks and aren't vaccinated for hepatitis A should get the vaccine "as soon as possible but no later than 14 days after contact," according to a news release from the health department.
On Thursday, public health workers gave 17 hepatitis A shots to Starbucks staff and set up a nearby pop-up vaccine clinic on Friday and Saturday, Keashen said.
Around 800 vaccines have been given out so far, making this the largest hepatitis A vaccine campaign in the state's history.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A is a liver infection that is highly contagious and can be transferred by close contact with an infected person or by consuming contaminated food or drink.
While many cases are mild, the Mayo Clinic notes that some people may require longer-term treatment. Fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, a low-grade fever, and skin yellowing are some of the symptoms.
Symptoms such as fever, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, and jaundice usually develop two to six weeks after infection and last shorter than two months.
According to the CDC, hepatitis A rates in the United States have dropped by more than 95% since the vaccine was first made available in 1995.