Restaurant-related hepatitis A outbreak doubles in size; more illnesses likely

Restaurant-related hepatitis A outbreak doubles in size; more illnesses likely

by Sue Jones
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The case count in a hepatitis A outbreak linked to restaurants in Virginia has doubled. At least 30 people are now infected with the virus, which can cause life-threatening liver infections.

Health officials said the window for symptoms to appear is ongoing, so they may continue to hear of new cases for at least a few more weeks, according to the Roanoke Times. It can take up to 50 days after exposure to the virus for symptoms to begin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least three of the patients have been admitted to hospitals.

The infected people ate at three Famous Anthony’s restaurants, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Cynthia Morrow from the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts provided an update on the outbreak recently.

An official with the state health department reported that a person who worked at all three of the implicated restaurants has tested positive for the virus, which causes liver infections. Hepatitis A is highly contagious, but can be prevented with vaccination. So, if the worker had been vaccinated it could have prevented the illnesses.

Post-exposure vaccines are available, but are not effective unless given within two weeks of exposure. So, none of the patients in this outbreak were eligible for the post-exposure treatment because of the lag time between the exposures and the detection of the outbreak.

The implicated Famous Anthony’s restaurants are at:

  • 4913 Grandin Road
  • 6499 Williamson Road
  • 2221 Crystal Spring Avenue

There were 14 confirmed patients, according to an update from state health officials on Sept. 29. Four of those patients were new since the outbreak was initially reported on Sept. 24.

The CDC says symptoms of hepatitis A infection can include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The infection also frequently causes yellowing of the eyes or skin, which is called jaundice. Hepatitis A can be easily spread through direct contact with an infected person or by contaminated food or drink.

Health officials recommend that anyone who ate at one of the implicated restaurants monitor themselves for the coming weeks to watch for symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should seek medical attention.

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