DALTON, Ga. -- The Whitfield County Health Department says a food handler at a restaurant in Dalton has been diagnosed with hepatitis A. Officials are warning the public and particularly anyone who ate at the restaurant to get tested and immunized.
The health department says the restaurant is the Crescent City Tavern on South Depot Street.
An investigation found that this employee worked while infectious this past December 28 through January 31.
Crescent City Tavern General Manager Bruce Arledge says he noticed something wasn't right with one of his kitchen employees.
"We noticed one day when he came in he looked a little ill," says Arledge.
So, they encouraged him to go to the doctor, and after a battery of tests were done came back with the results - "They discovered he had hepatitis A," says Arledge.
The main concern now is with any customers who came into contact with food or drink that employee may have prepared.
North Georgia Health District Infectious Disease Director Sherry Gregory says it's a virus they've seen more now than ever.
"We've had a big increase in our area, not just in our district but also our Rome district," says Gregory.
Health officials stress that it is relatively rare for restaurant patrons to become infected with hepatitis A virus due to an infected food handler, but anyone who ate or drank at the Crescent City Tavern on the above dates should contact their healthcare provider to determine if a hepatitis A immunization is needed to prevent the disease.
Hepatitis A immunization is also available at the Whitfield County Health Department at 800 Professional Boulevard in Dalton through the Child Health Program with no out-of-pocket cost, regardless of insurance status.
Anyone who consumed food and/or drink at the restaurant on the dates that employee worked is also asked to:
Careful hand washing, including under the fingernails, with soap and water, along with vaccination of anyone at risk of infection, will prevent the spread of this disease.
The manager of Crescent City Tavern says they've always set a high standard for handwashing.
"We've raised out policies that we're going to go above and beyond," says Arledge.
And now, they're taking an extra step.
"We're going to require that all of our kitchen staff to have a hepatitis A vaccine," he says.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and light-colored stools. Yellowing of the skin or eyes may also appear. People can become ill up to 50 days after being exposed to the virus.
Last summer, the Hamilton County Health Department reported a spike in Hepatitis A cases in Tennessee. In November, the Tennessee Health Department reported that one person near Nashville died from the infection.
Hepatitis A is acquired when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase risk of infection.
For more information on hepatitis A, go here.
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