OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fleming Cos. here offered immunizations to thousands of shoppers in western New York after a produce worker at one of its division's corporately owned stores was diagnosed with hepatitis A.
The store, a Jubilee Foods unit located in Horseheads, N.Y., also offered refunds to any customers who had bought fresh produce or deli sandwiches with sliced tomatoes during the time the infected produce employee was working, according to a statement from Jubilee Foods, a Fleming division based in Buffalo, N.Y. The period of possible exposure was between July 6 and 14, the company said.
Of the approximately 5,000 shoppers who may have been exposed to the virus, about 2,600 were immunized, according to Linda Swarthout, public health educator for the Chemung County Health Department, in Elmira, N.Y. Jubilee paid the health department for providing the immunizations, Swarthout said.
The supermarket also made information about hepatitis A available at the checkout counter, and set up a free call-in information line.
Jubilee took out an ad in the local paper, directed to shoppers and explaining what precautions the supermarket was taking. The headline of the ad read, "Doing What's Right Is the Best Medicine," and it was signed by store manager Tom Gaige and Phil Catanese, the director of corporate store operations who works out of Fleming's division office in Buffalo.
The produce employee, a part-timer, had contracted hepatitis A before he was hired by Jubilee, according to the company. It is not known how the employee contracted the disease.
"Hepatitis A is a fairly common type of thing," Swarthout said.
Hepatitis A, which causes flu-like symptoms and jaundice, has a lengthy incubation period of two to six weeks. Those who have the disease may not display symptoms for several days after they become infectious, and some never display symptoms at all, Swarthout said.
Good hygiene practices are the best defense against hepatitis A, she said.
Store employees were also immunized and have been wearing gloves at work since the employee was diagnosed.