2 Hepatitis A cases linked to Whole Foods in Detroit

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Two cases of Hepatitis A have been linked to the prepared foods section at Whole Foods Market in Detroit, according to the Detroit Health Department.

One case involves an employee who handles prepared food at the store at 115 Mack. The second is a Detroit resident who ate at the prepared food section of the store, health officials said.

Officials said it is unclear how each case was contracted, however, given the “theoretical risk” that the second case may have contracted the disease from food handler, the health department recommends anyone who may have the consumed prepared foods at the store between Oct. 6-12 to speak with a physician for preventative treatment.

“While it remains unclear exactly how either of these individuals contracted Hepatitis A, and we know that Whole Foods Market Detroit has a comprehensive food safety protocol, we want to do our best to protect our residents and those of surrounding communities who may have been exposed,” said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, executive director and health officer at the Detroit Health Department, in a statement Thursday. “Whole Foods has been nothing but cooperative throughout this process.”

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus. It is spread when a person ingests contaminated food or drink. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine and yellow eyes and skin. Symptoms can be mild and last a few weeks, or more severe and last several months.

Allison Phelps, spokeswoman for Whole Foods Market, said the employee informed the store of the diagnosis and the company immediately contacted the Health Department.

“We had a full inspection of the store,” she said. “We were told we followed all the appropriate food safety protocol.”

“The main message we want to get across is it isn’t clear that both case are connected,” Phelps continued. “We want the public to know and not panic and take the opportunity to receive the inoculation.”

Is it is possible for those with Hepatitis A to not have symptoms. More than 99 percent of cases clear without long-term consequences.

Anyone who may have been exposed is encouraged to receive a vaccine that prevents the development of Hepatitis A.

The Detroit Health Department will evaluate individuals and provide preventive treatment at its two clinics: the Samaritan Center at 5555 Conner and the Family Place at 8726 Woodward. Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through Oct. 26.

The Detroit Health Department has provided treatment to the Whole Foods staff and continues to monitor for additional cases. It is also working closely with the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, which oversees licensing and food safety in grocery stores.

For information, call the Detroit Health Department at (313) 876-4000.