SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Public health officials estimate that as many as 5,000 people may have been exposed to hepatitis A by an infected worker, according to news reports.

An employee at a Red Robin restaurant in Springfield, Mo. was recently diagnosed with the viral infection, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department reported. The employee may have been working at the restaurant while contagious.

"This infection is easily transmitted from person to person in a foodservice environment," the department noted on its website.

"We have been in contact with our healthcare partners to alert them to the situation and review proper vaccination protocols. Out of an abundance of caution, the Health Department is recommending individuals who ate at the Red Robin restaurant at 3720 S. Glenstone Avenue from May 8 to May 16 to contact their healthcare provider.

"While the Health Department considers this a significant health threat, an important thing to remember is that people are now commonly vaccinated for hepatitis A," the department added.

Red Robin said all employees at the restaurant have been inoculated against the virus.

Hepatitis A can spread through food or water contaminated with even microscopic amounts of fecal matter, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The virus attacks the liver and can result in symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and abdominal pain. The most severe infections can cause liver failure and death. Symptoms can range from mild illness lasting a few weeks to more severe symptoms lasting several months. A vaccine of immune globulin prophylaxis is the best way to prevent contracting hepatitis A, according to the CDC.