Updated
November 11th, 2019

Hepatitis A Warning Issued for Grocery Store Customers

NJ Health Department alerting ShopRite customers in Somerset to discard any deli items purchased

grocery store veggie section

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) has identified an increase in the number of hepatitis A virus cases during 2019.

This increase is not unique to the state of New Jersey, as several other states have also reported similar hepatitis A virus (HAV) outbreaks, which can be traced back to Michigan during 2016.

As of October 26, 2019, the NJDOH reported 504 hepatitis A cases met the outbreak-associated case definition since December 1, 2018.

Furthermore, New Jersey (NJ)’s outbreak may not be ending.

On November 4th, the NJDOH announced in a press release that it is working with the Somerset County Department of Health and Wakefern Corporation to notify individuals who visited a New Jersey ShopRite about a single case of hepatitis A in a food handler who is employed at ShopRite food market located at 1 S. Davenport St., Somerville, NJ 08876.

This ShopRite individual worked during the time when they were able to spread the virus to others, also known as the infectious period, from October 13 to 30, 2019. 

Furthermore, the NJDOH is ‘alerting those ShopRite customers who purchased items from this in-store deli should be thrown away.’

Additionally, ‘anyone who used the restrooms at the ShopRite of Somerville from Oct. 13 to 30, 2019, should also consider getting vaccinated.’

The NJ Health Department is recommending the following actions:

  • Individuals who may have eaten items purchased at the in-store deli (Appy) from the ShopRite of Somerville from Oct. 13 to 30, 2019, and who were not previously vaccinated against hepatitis A, should get the hepatitis A vaccine to prevent getting sick.
  • To be effective, the hepatitis A vaccine should be received as soon as possible, but no later than two weeks after eating food from this deli. For most people, this date would be Nov. 13, 2019.
  • Immunocompromised (persons with weakened immune systems) should talk with their healthcare provider about getting immunoglobulin or Ig instead of the vaccine.
  • Hepatitis A vaccine may be obtained from the ShopRite pharmacy or your health care provider. The ShopRite of Somerville has an in-store pharmacy that offers the hepatitis A vaccine. ShopRite pharmacies accept most insurance plans.
  • If you think you may have eaten items purchased at the in-store deli (Appy) or used the restrooms at the ShopRite of Somerville and have no access to a healthcare provider or insurance, you may call Zufall Health at 908-526-2335 to get more information about getting care. There may be a cost associated with your visit.
  • The Somerset County Department of Health will host a walk-in clinic to provide free hepatitis A vaccinations at the county Human Services Building, which is located at 27 Warren St., Somerville, on November 6th and 7th.

Furthermore, the NJDOH has notified healthcare providers so they can be alert to test for hepatitis A if a patient has symptoms and so they can provide vaccine if an opportunity occurs, to those at risk of infection.

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Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by a virus. It can range from a mild infection with no symptoms lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months that can result in liver failure and death, says the NJDOH.

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Hepatitis A is usually spread person-to-person when someone unknowingly eats food, drinks a beverage or places an object in their mouth that has been contaminated with microscopic, trace amounts of the virus.

Additionally, food-service workers represent a sizable, at-risk population since their daily responsibilities include directly handling food and drink.

Hepatitis A vaccine news

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on November 1, 2019, the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak has produced:

  • Cases: 27,634
  • Hospitalizations: 60%
  • Fatalities: 275

Even though hepatitis A disease burden in the United States has been very low, there still remains a substantial direct and indirect cost burden when treating hepatitis A patients.

Various studies have concluded the average annual cost for treating hospitalized hepatitis A patients covered under commercial health insurance plans could run up to $11,479.

There are 3 HAV vaccines approved in the USA: Vaqta, Havrix, and Twinrix, which are available at pharmacies in most states.

Furthermore, immune globulin can provide short-term protection against hepatitis A, both pre- and post-exposure.

The most common potential side effect of these vaccines is soreness at or around the injection site. Other potential side effects include mild headache, loss of appetite among children, and feeling tired. 

Any vaccine can cause side effects, which should be reported to a healthcare provider asap, says the CDC.

For additional questions, call the Somerset County Health Department hotline at 908-203-6014.

Vaccine discounts can be found here.

Hepatitis A news published by Precision Vaccinations