An Idaho Cheesecake Factory is at the center of a Hepatitis A scare that appears to have originated with an employee at the chain’s Boise restaurant who tested positive for Hep A.
The Central District Health Department is warning customers about potential exposure to the virus, said WKIV TV, noting that while it doesn’t see Hepatitis A often, when it is seen, it is important to be aware of how highly contagious the disease is.
The Hepatitis A-infected Cheesecake Factory employee was at the restaurant between December 13, 2011 and January 22, 2012, said WKIV TV. While the employee was not involved in the preparation of food, the employee did handle food and beverages. To date, said Central District Health, no other cases have been reported.
“The way it’s usually transmitted is when someone infected uses the bathroom without washing their hands properly and then handles food and drinks and then infects those items,” said Dave Fotsch of the Central District Health Department, reported WKIV TV. “As I understand it, that employee didn’t even know there was an infection until seeing the doctor much later.”
As we’ve previously written, individuals exposed to Hepatitis A should receive an immune globulin (IG) or a Hepatitis A vaccination within two weeks of exposure to a person who is contagious with the infection. Individuals who have been vaccinated for Hepatitis A or who have had the illness in the past are protected from Hepatitis A infections, and there is no need for further action.
Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A virus, which may be spread by consuming food or drink that has been handled by an infected person. It may also be spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with Hepatitis A. Casual contact does not spread the virus. Contact with even a very minute amount of infected fecal matter is sufficient to pass the virus.
The symptoms of Hepatitis A may range from mild to severe and include an abrupt onset of fever, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
The disease is rarely fatal and most people recover in a few weeks without any complications. The symptoms commonly appear within 28 days of exposure, with a range of 15-50 days. There are no special medicines or antibiotics that can be used to treat a person once symptoms appear. Generally bed rest is all that is needed.
Thorough hand washing after bathroom use and before, during, and after food preparation is the most important means in which to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A and other intestinal illnesses. Thorough hand washing of the entire hand, including the wrist, between the fingers, and under the fingernails is suggested for no less than 20 seconds.
Sharing of food and utensils should be discouraged especially whenever anyone is ill.
WKIV TV pointed out that for every five people sickened with Hepatitis A, one will require hospitalization.