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NYC Offering Free Hepatitis A Vaccinations After UWS Health Scare

Officials: Fruit Sold At Westside Market May Have Been Exposed To Disease

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Health Department is offering free hepatitis A vaccinations after health officials said customers of an Upper West Side market may have been exposed to the disease.

A food handler at Westside Market on Broadway between 97th and 98th streets contracted hepatitis A, health officials said Thursday.

“We love having Westside Market here, but it’s scary,” one woman said. “It can happen anywhere.”

Customers who have eaten any type of chopped, ready-to-eat fruit between Aug. 9 and Aug. 22 are at risk, officials said.

Included in the warning are chopped fruit salads, slices of watermelon, pineapple, shelled or cut coconut and peeled whole pineapples packaged in plastic wrap. The items could have been purchased either in-store or through catering or delivery.

“No one likes the idea of being exposed to a disease, but we’ll get the vaccine. There’s nothing else to do,” customer Peter Foster told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

The Westside Market said it is cooperating fully with the investigation and that all potentially unsafe food has been destroyed.

“All the equipment was cleansed. All the people who he was in contact with at the store were asked to go home and get themselves checked out. And all employees at the store are being vaccinated,” store spokesman Juda Engelmayer told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.

Store policy requires all workers to wear protective hairnets, aprons and gloves when handling food. The health department says risk of contamination is low, but it’s possible.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can last from a few weeks to several months. It is spread by eating food that has been contaminated with traces of fecal matter from an infected person.

Symptoms include jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea, according to the health department. Symptoms typically appear within 15 to 50 days after exposure.

“You have to be careful about what you put into your body and what you buy from the outside,” said Upper West Side resident Debbie Donovan. “If you’re not preparing it, when in doubt, don’t eat it.”

There are no current reports of hepatitis A in customers, but city health officials are urging anyone who may have been exposed to be vaccinated as a precaution.

“If people experience symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “This incident serves as an important reminder to always wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of disease.”

Hundreds of people lined up at the Community Action School on Friday night to receive their free vaccines. Lisa Berger told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin that she waited an hour and 15 minutes.

“They were incredibly organized inside,” she said. “I was impressed.”

“I eat mango and apple, along with salad with salad starting from Monday,” said Angela Thomas, who was also waiting to be vaccinated. “It’s just scary.”

A vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks after exposure.

People can get a vaccination from their regular doctor. The Health Department is also offering free vaccinations at MS 258, the Community Action School, at 154 West 93rd Street.

Vaccination Times And Dates:

Saturday, Aug. 24: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 25: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Monday, Aug 26: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Anyone with health insurance is asked to bring their card with them.

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