In another outbreak of hepatitis A infections that have sickened more than 200 people in eight states, 37 people have been sickened by the virus at Starbucks over the past two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Starbucks apologized in a statement, saying it’s working with health officials to understand what happened.
“The Health Department has asked Starbucks to limit the use of its machines for approximately two weeks to get the facilities cleared of Hepatitis A virus,” a Starbucks spokeswoman said. “This is an unusual situation as the majority of Starbucks customers have not been exposed.”
The illness is relatively rare: there were about 17,000 people who became ill from the virus in the United States last year, according to CDC data. While many who are infected are immunized, it is possible that some customers who don’t have a diagnosis won’t get better for several months.
Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, body aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes.
“You can get the illness a month or two later,” said Dr. Jeff Mooney, the director of the Metropolitan Washington Healthcare information System, who added that most cases are mild, and almost all resolve without medication.
Hepatitis A is caused by an infection of the liver caused by a virus found in feces. The CDC said at least 28 people in California were sickened.
In many cases, the virus is transmitted through a food or beverage contaminated with feces, which are soiled by a person who may not be properly washing their hands. It can be passed on by people touching or eating food or drinks that have been contaminated by feces.
The CDC recommends that people make sure their hands are clean by washing them with soap and water before handling food or drink, or before using the toilet. It is also important to avoid sharing utensils, food containers or drinks.