Wilkes County Health Department is investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A involving a local food establishment. County health officials are advising people who may have consumed food or drinks from Dixie Donuts in Wilkesboro that they might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus and are being asked to contact Wilkes County Health Department for a vaccine or shot that could prevent them from getting sick. County health officials are advising anyone that purchased food or drinks at Dixie Donuts, (2830 W NC Highway 268), on the following dates and times: May 8th (7:00 am – 1:00 pm), May 9th (7:00 am – 1:00 pm), May 10th (2:00 pm – 8:00 pm), or May 12th (2:00 pm – 8:00 pm) to contact Wilkes County Health Department. An employee was diagnosed with hepatitis A on May 13. Those potentially exposed could experience symptoms as early as May 22 and as late as June 23. Those who have had a hepatitis A infection or hepatitis A vaccine are protected from the virus and do not need to take additional actions. Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis vaccine is very effective in reducing the risk of disease when administered within 14 days of the last day of exposure. Hepatitis A is usually spread by eating or drinking items that have been contaminated with the virus or by close personal contact with an infected person. Symptoms appear two-to-seven weeks after exposure and commonly include fever, a feeling of being unwell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal discomfort; urine may become darker in color and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) may appear. Some individuals, especially children, may not develop jaundice, and may have an illness so mild that it can go unnoticed. However, even mildly ill persons can still be highly infectious. While it can be avoided if the vaccine or shot described above are given within two weeks of exposure, there is no specific treatment once a person has hepatitis A. Most people recover without complications after several weeks. People who have pre-existing liver problems can become extremely ill if they contract hepatitis A. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor. Careful hand washing is the key to preventing spread of hepatitis A and should include vigorous washing of hands with soap and running water for minimum of 20 seconds. All surfaces should be washed including the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. This is especially important after using the washroom and before handling food. Anyone who may have been exposed is strongly encouraged to follow this practice to reduce the risk of spreading illness to others. Wilkes County Health Department will provide a walk-in clinic for the vaccine on May 18th from 2-6 pm and May 19th from 9-12 noon. For more information, please call Wilkes County Health Department at (336) 651-7573. For general information see http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/A/index.htm.