AHS warns those who ate at Grey Nuns Hospital after worker diagnosed with hepatitis A

Alberta Health Services has issued a warning to patients, visitors and staff at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital after a cafeteria worker was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

We're not saying these people ... are sick. We're just saying there is simply the possibility,' doctor says

Dr. Jasmine Hasselback (left), medical officer of health for AHS, and Karen MacMillan (right), a senior operating officer at Grey Nuns Community Hospital talk about a potential exposure of hepatitis A at the hospital.

Alberta Health Services has issued a warning to patients, visitors and staff at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in south Edmonton after a cafeteria worker was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

The risk of exposure is low but anyone who consumed food from the cafeteria, including patients served in their rooms, may have been exposed on certain days in recent weeks.

"We're not saying these people have acquired the virus or that they are sick. We're just saying there is simply the possibility," said Dr. Jasmine Hasselback, medical officer of health for AHS, Edmonton zone.

It's still not clear exactly how many people might have been affected. AHS is warning:

  • Inpatients who ate food delivered to their rooms on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, or on March 1, March 3, March 4, March 7 or March 15.
  • Anyone who ate food for the cafeteria between Feb. 26 and March 10, and March 13 to 18 

Hepatitis A is rare in Alberta. Every year, there are one to two cases per 100,000 people in the province. It's usually acquired by people who have travelled to countries where the disease is more prevalent.

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. But those who believe they may have been exposed can seek an immunization. The immunization can help prevent extreme illness if received within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A.

"Thankfully we do have the option, if people can connect within those two weeks post their last exposure, to offer the vaccine," Hasselback said.
Patients, visitors and staff at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital are being warned about possible exposure to hepatitis A, Alberta Health Services said Thursday. (Canadian Press)

"It's a way to help the body clear that virus without getting sick. But after two weeks it no longer provides that protection ... then you're relying on the body alone to battle that virus."

Hasselback said the disease is a "self-limiting condition," meaning that most people will eventually fight it off.

Hand-washing reduces risk

Hepatitis A is often transmitted if someone with the disease does not properly wash their hands before handling food and drinks. Hasselback said that proper handwashing and cleanliness in a kitchen will help slow down its spread.

"The way the cafeteria is run certainly meets what we would expect to reduce the potential risk to the public," Hasselback said of operations at the Grey Nuns cafeteria

The cafeteria has been thoroughly inspected, AHS said, and there is no ongoing risk of infection.

"As a precaution, anyone who consumed food or drink from the cafeteria is advised to monitor themselves and their family for symptoms for 50 days after their last exposure," Hasselback said.

Symptoms include: nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and fever, dark-coloured urine, and yellowing of eyes and skin.

AHS sets up immunization clinics

AHS has scheduled immunization clinics for some of the people exposed.

Anyone affected is encouraged to call Health Link (811) to assess their risk and get more information about the upcoming immunization clinics.

Illness can occur from 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus, but symptoms usually appear within 28 to 30 days.