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The airline announced that the possible exposure occurred on September 21 during a flight from San Francisco to Charlotte, North Carolina.
Officials from the Mecklenburg County Health Department interviewed all 18 passengers from the Charlotte area who had been onboard the Sept. 21 flight from California. Everyone aboard have been vaccinated against the Hepatitis A virus, according to department spokeswoman Rebecca Carter.
“The risk was only to the passengers on the flight,” Carter told The Charlotte Observer, while adding that “there was no risk to the public.”
The virus causes liver disease with symptoms ranging from “fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice,” which generally disappear around two months after receiving the hepatitis A virus, the CDC website reports.
Both American Airlines and CDC officials are investigating the nature of the exposure.
“It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water,” according to the website
American Airlines would not publicly confirm whether or not one of its flight attendants had hepatitis A or any other disease, according to an ABC News report.
Meanwhile, American Airlines spokeswoman Crystal Byrd assured potential passengers that the airline is working closely with the CDC to “coordinate health and safety-related measures.”
“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority,” Byrd said in a statement on behalf of American Airlines. “We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials and will coordinate with them on any required health and safety related measures.”
Making matters worse, the county itself is already in the midst of a hepatitis A outbreak, according to federal health officials.
Since 2012, hepatitis A cases have been on the rise in the U.S. Since the outbreaks were first identified in 2016, the CDC lists 30 states that have reported cases of the Disease. A total of 26,276 cases were reported nationally, including 15,819 hospitalizations and 268 deaths as of Sept. 27, 2019, according to the Mecklenburg County Health Department website.
There were 39 reported cases of hepatitis A in Mecklenburg County between April 2018 to June 2019 alone, according to county health officials.