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Hundreds Receive Hepatitis A Vaccination After Possible Exposure at Red Lobster in Fort Smith

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA) -- Hundreds of Arkansans are getting vaccinated for hepatitis A after a red lobster employee in Fort Smith tested positive for the virus.

The Arkansas Department of Health is encouraging everyone who might be experiencing symptoms to seek care immediately.

Over 700 people showed up to be vaccinated on Friday. In a press release, ADH says anyone who ate at this facility from July 19 to August 4 should seek vaccination immediately if they have never been vaccinated against hep A or are unsure of their vaccination status.

"It's just like the flu. With this particular hepatitis A, it can impact you quite a bit, so we just want to encourage folks to come and get their vaccines so they don't get sick," said Matthew Hicks, Environmental Health Specialist for Crawford, Sebastian and Scott County. 

The ADH says this case appears to be related to travel outside of the state. So far there have been more than 80 cases reported in Arkansas.

The next vaccination clinic is on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ben Geren Park, 7700 S. Zero St. in Fort Smith at the community storm shelter.

Although it's been a talker around the Natural State, many might not know what hepatitis A is. We spoke to an infectious disease specialist to find out how exactly hepatitis A is contracted, what the disease is, and some signs and symptoms to look out for if you think you might have it.

"It can be quite serious, and in fact upwards of 1 and 300 people will die from this infection from liver failure. In general, think of it as, oh yeah I have hepatitis for eating bad foods but it can be quite dangerous. In particular, people who are very young and very old or who have underlying liver disease are at risk for illnesses that can be catastrophic," Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Stephen Hennigan said.

Symptoms of the disease include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and general lack of energy. According to the CDC, hepatitis A is very rare, with less than 20,000 cases reported in the U.S. per year.


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