msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/10/2011 2:26:19 PM ET 2011-08-10T18:26:19

Hundreds may have been exposed to hepatitis A after eating at an Olive Garden in Fayetteville, N.C., where an infected food server was working.

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On Tuesday, the Cumberland County Public Health Department immunized more than 250 people who may have been exposed to the disease after eating in the restaurant, according to the Food Poison Journal.

On Monday, a food server at the restaurant tested positive for hepatitis A and alerted Olive Garden management, reports FayObserver.com. County health officials say Olive Garden diners or employees who ate at the restaurant in the last two weeks may have been exposed to the disease. The county health department is offering a walk-in clinic where those who may have been exposed can get the hepatitis A vaccine.

The virus is spread when a person ingests even the tiniest amount of fecal matter from an infected person. Infection can be prevented, however, with thorough handwashing of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails, with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.

Early symptoms of hepatitis A include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine, light-colored stools and jaundice, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mild cases last two weeks or less, whereas severe cases can last four to six weeks — or longer.

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