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Loblaws assures customers they are taking hep A infection at Superstore very seriously. No evidence anyone who ate food from the store has been infected, says health unit.



Loblaws says it is working closely with Public Health Sudbury and Districts to ensure safety of customers and staff after a second case of hepatitis A was confirmed at the Real Canadian Superstore on Thursday.

The health unit said customers of the Real Canadian Superstore “who consumed clerk-served deli meat or cheese, or meat and cheese from prepared deli trays purchased from the store between Nov. 27, 2019, and Jan. 2, 2020, could be at risk of hepatitis A infection.”

This notice extends to Jan. 2 the original notice which was to Dec. 16.

“We want to assure our customers and colleagues that we take their safety very seriously,” said an email statement from Loblaws Public Relations.

“We ... have taken all precautions to minimize the risk to others, including discarding all potentially impacted product and completing a second full clean of our deli, equipment and shared spaces in the store.

“It is important to note that Public Health has confirmed that there is no evidence that anyone who consumed food from the store has been infected. We have followed their guidance on vaccinations for potentially impacted colleagues and encourage our customers to do the same.”

When the second case was announced last night, Public Health quoted Stacey Laforest, director of the health protection division, saying the new case was "unfortunate, but perhaps not unexpected."

Dr. Ariella Zbar, associate medical officer of health, explained that Laforest was referring to the hardiness of the virus. Hepatitis A, she said, is a tough virus that can withstand the very harsh acids in our stomach as it passes through our system. It's not susceptible to freezing, and it can only be removed from food products when it's exposed to a high enough temperature.

It also has a long incubation period — the time between being exposed to the virus to the time you exhibit symptoms, she said. The incubation period for hepatitis A is between 15 days to 50 days.

“Because of that long incubation period, there are people who could have been exposed to it early on,” Zbar said. “Two weeks before you show symptoms, you can be infectious. You don't have the symptoms, but you could be transmitting the virus.”

The second worker was not symptomatic until much later on, Zbar said, and was tested after seeking medical care for their symptoms.

“That's how we learned about it,” she said.

The process to disinfect the deli at the Superstore is underway, she said, and how long it will take depends on how many food products are involved and the type of cleaning, but it should be wrapped up fairly soon.

More than 2,000 adult Sudburians flocked to the health unit just before Christmas after the first case of hepatitis A was confirmed at the Real Canadian Superstore on Dec. 12. About 80 per cent of those people were adults, while the remainder were 18 years of age or younger.

Today, the health unit vaccinated 159 adults and 50 children.

Wash your hands — it's one of the most effective way of preventing hepatitis A, Zbar said.

“If you develop symptoms of hepatitis A, don't go to work, especially if you are a food handler, and seek medical attention.”

Customers with impacted product in their house should discarded it or return it to the store. Anyone with further questions or concerns should contact Public Health.

Vaccine clinics will be held at the health unit’s main office, 1300 Paris St. in Sudbury. No appointment is needed and there is parking on site. Check phsd.ca for clinic wait times. Clinic times are:

Jan. 3, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jan. 4, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Jan. 5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The health unit will reassess whether to hold more special clinics after Jan. 5. Announcements will be made on their website and through social media.

Only one dose of the hepatitis A vaccine is needed. This dose is provided for free to people who consumed the food within the last 14 days (that’s when the vaccine is effective).

Common hep A symptoms include fever, stomach pain or discomfort, dark urine, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, loss of appetite, clay or ash-coloured bowel movements, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).

If you are concerned that you may have been infected with hepatitis A or if you have questions about getting the vaccine, contact Public Health Sudbury and Districts at 705-522-9200 (toll-free 1-866-522-9200), visit phsd.ca for updates, or speak with your primary care provider as soon as possible.