As many as 150 people who went to a SouthPark restaurant on Oct. 30 are at risk of getting Hepatitis A, the latest case in a months-long outbreak in Mecklenburg County, Health Director Gibbie Harris said Thursday.
At a news conference, Harris said patrons who ate or drank at the Village Tavern should seek a vaccination by Tuesday.
Authorities learned about the risk Wednesday when a worker from the restaurant on Congress Street went to a hospital with symptoms of the virus. Customers could have been exposed because the employee served and prepared food, Harris said.
The news came the same week the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported its first death from a national outbreak. States such as Kentucky, California and Michigan have been especially hard hit with dozens of deaths, according to a report from the (Raleigh) News and Observer.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease usually transmitted through eating or drinking food or water contaminated with fecal material. Symptoms can include fatigue, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice.
Health officials have recorded 24 diagnoses of Hepatitis A in Mecklenburg this year. In a typical year, Harris said, there are four to six cases.
A Hepitatis case in June at a Hardee’s restaurant in west Charlotte led more than 2,000 people to get vaccinations, according to a September report by the Observer. Officials estimate 4,000 people ate at the Hardee’s and could have been at risk, the Observer reported.
The majority of cases have involved drug users, including people sharing marijuana, and men who had sex with other men, Harris said. People who are homeless and have less ability to regularly wash their hands are also among those with a higher risk.
“The possibility that this could get out of hand is out there,” she said.
In the latest case, the Village Tavern said Thursday that authorities are not aware of anyone who was infected by its employee.
“The employee was not aware or showing symptoms the day he reported to work,” company President and Chief Executive Officer Tony Santarelli said in a prepared statement. “That said, food safety and personal hygiene are of the greatest importance in all of our restaurants, so we are proactively taking every step necessary to ensure the well being of our employees and guests.”
County officials urged those who were at the Village Tavern to get vaccinated as soon as possible. All of the restaurant’s employees will be vaccinated, Santarelli said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the vaccine is only effective if it is given within 14 days of exposure to the virus, the county said.
Hepatitis A vaccinations are not required under North Carolina law. Harris said people who visited the Village Tavern, but had vaccination within the last 10 years are safe from the virus.
The county is hosting vaccination clinics for customers who might have been exposed and others who meet criteria that put them at high risk.
There are clinics available form 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Tuesday at the Health Department facility at 249 Billingsley Road in east Charlotte. There are also clinics open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Billingsley Road location.
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