Officials: Up to 4,000 people may have been exposed to hepatitis A at North Carolina restaurant

The health department in Charlotte, North Carolina, is urging people who ate at the Hardee's restaurant on Little Rock Road in west Charlotte to receive a hepatitis A vaccination as soon as possible.

Health officials said the outbreak identified by the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month has led to five more cases since June 6, including a Hardee's employee diagnosed Monday.

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The health director said there have been 12 cases of hepatitis A this year, 10 since April 20.

“After consulting with the State today, we are recommending a vaccination for exposed employees and patrons who ate at the 2604 Little Rock Road location between June 13 and 23,” Health Director Gibbie Harris said in a statement.

Officials said as many as 4,000 people ate at the restaurant over that 10-day period.

Officials said the employee who tested positive for hepatitis A handled food and that’s why others may have been exposed.

The health department found out Monday that the employee was diagnosed with the liver disease but waited until Tuesday to notify the public.

"We really didn't have all the information yesterday, and had we talked to the state yesterday it really wouldn't have changed our timeframe," Harris said.

The Hardee's restaurant voluntarily closed Tuesday afternoon.

WSOC-TV spoke to one customer who said he ate there Tuesday morning and was trying to get some answers.

"They said it was precautionary. They're cleaning things up. They said I should be okay, but I am still going to call my doctor," customer Darren Brown said.

According to the CDC, the vaccine must be given within 14 days of exposure for it to be effective.

The health department said anyone who dined at the involved Hardee's location on June 13 and 14 should get a vaccination within the next two days.

Officials said they are setting up a hotline for staff to answer questions about the potential exposure, but the number isn't available yet.

You can find more information about hepatitis A on the Mecklenburg County Health Department website.

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