The Salt Lake City Health Department issued a public warning Monday stating that approximately 650 people could have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus while dining at the New Yorker Restaurant in SLC. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that anyone who dined at the restaurant between July 25 and August 15 could have been exposed to the illness and that it is now too late to receive an emergency hepatitis A vaccine.
The warning stemmed from the discovery that an employee who handled food at the restaurant during the time period had been infected with the disease, potentially spreading the virus via food, says the Salt Lake Tribune. Apparently, the SLC Health Department believes that the employee’s case is linked to the Salt Lake City County hepatitis outbreak that has been occurring since mid-2017. At this point, the only potentially exposed people considered safe from the virus are those who were vaccinated with two full doses of the hepatitis vaccine prior, sources say. Anyone who is not vaccinated should be tested and should continue watching for signs of the disease through October 3, when the window of incubation will have passed.
The health department listed details of concern in a news release Monday.
“Symptoms of hepatitis A include low fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and yellow skin and eyes. The incubation period for hepatitis A is two to seven weeks, so potentially affected customers should watch for symptoms until October 3,” the health department stated.
While there is cause for alarm because of the number of people exposed, the Mayo Clinic states that most people infected with the contagious liver ailment recover completely. It is no surprise that the virus is often spread in restaurants because food contamination is one of the major vehicles for infection. The results of hepatitis A contraction are liver inflammation and compromised liver function, though mild cases do not require treatment, the Mayo Clinic says.
The Salt Lake City contamination event is far from the first time that restaurant patrons have been exposed to the disease by contaminated workers. Just this June, WCNC reported that a Hardee’s restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, exposed around 4,000 people to the virus, resulting in multiple lawsuits against the franchise. In this case, the discovery was found early enough for people to receive an emergency hepatitis A vaccine.
The Mayo Clinic states that hepatitis A symptoms may appear within a few weeks of exposure and may disappear in the same amount of time. However, for some, the disease can be much more severe and take months to clear up.