Remain Calm: Here's The Real Deal On The McDonald's Hepatitis A Scare

Photo: Jeff Blackler/REX Shutterstock.
The most recent (and maybe least necessary) food safety uproar comes from a McDonald's in Waterloo, NY. The operator of the restaurant has been sued by one of the thousand customers who were potentially exposed to hepatitis A after ordering food prepared by an employee with the virus.

Reuters reports that the Seneca County Health Department had confirmed the worker's diagnosis last Friday, but that people who dined at the Waterloo McDonald's on November 2, 3, 5, 6, or 8 could have been exposed. The health department also recommended that those who weren't already vaccinated against hep A seek medical attention just in case.

Sounds really scary, but take a second here: It's harder than you think to be exposed to hepatitis A. In order to contract the virus, you have to ingest the fecal matter of someone who already has the disease. (Hopefully the affected worker was following food industry safety standards and thoroughly washing his or her hands after using the bathroom.)

Since 1995, when the hepatitis A vaccine became available, rates of infection have dropped 95% — just 1,781 cases were reported in 2013, down from over 20,000 a decade ago. Symptoms include fever, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, and jaundice (as the virus specifically infects the liver), and they last less than two months. Although there's a small chance of relapse for six months after you first acquire the illness, hepatitis A is not a chronic condition. And once you're over it, you've built up immunity and won't get it again, according to the CDC.

Vaccination and good hygiene are the best (and simplest) ways to prevent hep A transmission. We also highly recommend you don't stress out about that McFlurry.

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