Thousands of customers who frequent a 7-Eleven convenience store in West Jordan, Utah, are being warned by health officials about possible exposure to hepatitis A at the store.
The exposure, caused by a sick employee coming to work, is limited to the one location in Salt Lake County. Any customer who used the bathroom or bought a self-serve drink, fresh fruit or an item from the hot food case between Dec. 26, 2017, and Jan. 3 may have been exposed, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.
Based on the store's average sales, the health department estimates as many as 2,000 people may have been exposed. People who believe they may have been exposed are being urged to call the health department for guidance on how to get a hepatitis A vaccine. As of Jan. 8, 256 people had reached out to be vaccinated, according to CNN.
The health department says people who need the vaccine must receive it soon after their exposure for it to be effective.
"Those who may have been in there on the 26th have until this coming Tuesday [Jan. 9] to be vaccinated, so we wanted to get the word out so the public can take action," said Gary Edwards, the health department's executive director, according to KSTU.
It is likely the employee was infected with hepatitis A as part of a larger outbreak that has been ongoing in Salt Lake County since August 2017, according to the health department.
The 7-Eleven store has been cooperating with the health department's investigation and fully sanitized the location after the exposure was discovered.
"This is an important reminder to food service establishments that they should consider vaccinating their food-handling employees against hepatitis A," Edwards said in a health department statement.
"It's also important the food handlers be conscientious with hygiene, hand washing and not working when ill," he continued, "and that managers be vigilant in enforcing those important requirements that protect public health."
KSTU spoke to Blaize Sanchez, a man who works next door to the 7-Eleven and shops there frequently.
"Today I had a hot dog over here, kind of spooky knowing that," he said.
In November 2017, the CDC said the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of the hepatitis A vaccine after a surprisingly high number of outbreaks across the country, according to CNN. The CDC has been working to make sure the most at-risk populations get the vaccine while waiting for more doses to be manufactured.
The vaccine is expected to be readily available within the first quarter of 2018. The Salt Lake County Health Department said the vaccine is currently widely available in area pharmacies.