Hepatitis A exposure possible at Red Lobster in Fort Smith

FORT SMITH, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Health is warning about possible exposure to hepatitis A at the Red Lobster restaurant in Fort Smith.

Anyone who ate at the facility from July 19 to August 4 should seek vaccination immediately, according to the health department, if they have not already been vaccinated or are not sure if they have been or not.

The department will hold free clinics at Ben Geren Park (7700 South Zero Street) in Fort Smith at the community storm shelter. The clinics will be held:

* Friday, August 10 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
* Saturday, August 11 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

People should enter from the west side of the park near the Parrot Island entrance. Bring your insurance card and driver's license if you have it.

One dose of hep A vaccine has been required for entry into kindergarten and first grade since 2014. Most adults are likely not vaccinated, according to the health department.

"There are no specific treatments once a person gets hep A," the department said.

"Illness can be prevented even after exposure by getting the vaccine or medicine called immune globulin. This medicine contains antibodies to hep A. The vaccine and medicine works best if given within two weeks of exposure to the virus. However, if it has been more than two weeks since potential exposure but symptoms have not yet developed, the vaccine may still be given."

A worker contracted hepatitis A during travel, the department told 40/29. This incident was not related to the hepatitis A outbreak at a Little Caesar's in northeast Arkansas.

The Red Lobster Seafood Co. sent a statement to 40/29 News:

"The health and safety of our guests and team members is our top priority, and we are taking this matter seriously. We’re taking prompt and immediate action, working closely with the Arkansas Department of Health."
Hepatitis A is contracted by ingesting a tiny amount of fecal matter, is contagious and can be fatal, but is treatable. Symptoms include fever, nausea and jaundice.

A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear. Many people will have no symptoms.

The virus can cause illness anytime from two to seven weeks after exposure.