Albertans warned of hepatitis A exposure at hotel, school in Nanton

A person with hepatitis A prepared food earlier this month for a hotel and a school in southern Alberta, the health authority says.

Infected person prepared customer meals and bannock for outdoor club

A food prep worker at the Auditorium Hotel in Nanton, Alta., was infected with hepatitis A. Alberta Health Services says that person is no longer working at the restaurant, which has since been inspected and approved to operate safely. (Google Maps)

A person with hepatitis A prepared food earlier this month for a hotel and a school in southern Alberta, the provincial health authority says.

The hotel staffer is no longer preparing with food, an Alberta Health Services (AHS) doctor says. That person also helped cook bannock for a school club.

The person prepared food on these dates, AHS has found:

  • Jan. 11 and 18 at Auditorium Hotel at 2011 20 Avenue N.W.
  • Jan. 17 at JT Foster High School at 2501 22 Street.

Specifically, the infected person assisted with the school's outdoor club, which made bannock together. All the members of the school club have been contacted by AHS.

AHS found out about the exposure late Thursday and issued a public health alert Friday after determining others may have eaten contaminated food.

Dr. Jia Hu is urging people who may have been exposed to call Health Link at 811 and watch for symptoms.

"If you get infected you tend to have some pretty clear symptoms and then … it resolves in most people," Hu said, "But in others it can lead to more serious consequences like hospitalization."

Members of the outdoor club at JT Foster High School may have consumed bannock prepared by someone with hepatitis A. (Google Maps)

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus. It's spread by feces and must be digested so for example, if an infected person doesn't wash their hands after using the washroom, the virus can travel onto food to infect others.

Symptoms include tiredness, poor appetite, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting. Then there may be dark-coloured urine, light-coloured stools and jaundice, which is the yellowing of eyes and skin. Others may not notice any symptoms despite being infectious.

The symptoms can take between 15 and 50 days to appear, so Hu recommends remaining vigilant until March 8.

Dr. Jia Hu, AHS medical officer for Calgary zone, says measles is extremely contagious and can lead to severe complications, such as swelling in the brain. In roughly one or two cases per thousand, it can lead to death. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Those exposed on either Jan. 17 or 18 are still able to take a hepatitis A vaccine, said Hu, medical officer for the Calgary zone. The vaccine can be taken up to 14 days after exposure but he said the Jan. 11 group is likely too far on the outside of that window.

AHS is planning an immunization clinic at the high school and the local community centre, although details are not yet available.

If you do get hepatitis A, it's typically treated by taking fluids and resting, and most people recover without any complications, Hu said.

"Just because you ate, doesn't mean you're definitely going to get hepatitis A," he said. "A lot of people who eat contaminated food do not actually get hepatitis A."

There is no risk to hotel customers or school faculty and students outside of those dates, Alberta Health Services noted. The hotel restaurant has been fully cleaned, inspected and approved as safe to operate by provincial inspectors.