The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is putting the public on alert as it investigates a case of hepatitis A in an employee of Wendy’s restaurant located on Red River Road.

Anyone who consumed any food from this restaurant between Oct. 11 and 26 may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus, the health unit stated.

hand washing

Hand hygiene — including proper hand washing — is extremely important in preventing the spread of hepatitis A, the Thunder Bay and District Health Unit says. (CBC)

While the risk of infection is very low, people who consumed food from the restaurant during this period should watch for signs of illness, the health unit said in a press release issued Friday.

People should contact their health care provider if they experience any of the following symptoms: fever, loss of appetite, abdominal (stomach) pain, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools or yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice). Symptoms can develop anywhere from 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus. Severity and length of symptoms can vary.

Wendy's cooperating with health officials

The health unit said this appears to be an isolated case and has not had any other reports of hepatitis A infections in the Thunder Bay district at this time.

It said Wendy’s restaurant on Red River Road is in compliance with public health requirements and has been fully cooperative with the investigation.

Wendy's issued a statement to CBC News in an e-mail through a spokesperson, saying it has taken the case very seriously, and that it temporarily closed the restaurant on Thursday night to completely sanitize it under the guidance of health officials.

Lisa Deletroz of Wendy's Restaurants of Canada said "the one employee who is ill will not return to work until cleared by qualified medical personnel."  Her statement added "There is no current health risk to our customers or employees."

Most patients recover completely

According to health unit information, hepatitis A is an acute disease of the liver caused by a virus and can be spread from person to person, through contaminated food or water. It is found in the stool of people infected with the virus. Hepatitis A is not spread by coughing or sneezing.

Hand hygiene — including proper hand washing — is extremely important in preventing the spread of the virus, the health unit said. Most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage.

In rare cases, hepatitis A can be serious or life threatening to older adults or people with chronic liver disease. People with compromised immune systems, or who have liver disease, are at higher risk for complications if they become infected with hepatitis A.

Anyone who is concerned or has questions can contact their health care provider or the Health Unit at 625-5900.