Possible hepatitis A exposure reported near Charlotte

People who ate at two restaurants when traveling near the Charlotte area in the last two weeks may have been exposed to hepatitis A, according to reports from health agencies in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. The restaurants involved are Hooters in Concord, N.C. and Whiskey Warehouse in Charlotte, N.C.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease that is caused by the virus of the same name.  A vaccine is available to treat the virus, however, local health department Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore requests that folks contact the local Department of Health Disease Control staff before they arrive.

“It enables them [patients] to get the vaccine in a more efficient process. We want to ease the process and, as part of outbreak investigation, we need to know how many people we have in our county who were potentially exposed,” Mullendore explains, adding, “We have the vaccine on-hand at the Buncombe County Health Department so that we can give it to people who ate or drank at those restaurants.”

Currently, there are no reports of any Buncombe County residents being exposed to the hepatitis A outbreak at this time.

However, Mullendore emphasizes that hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease.

The release from The Mecklenburg County Health Department & the Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County (Cabarrus Health Alliance) was sent out to local media from the Buncombe County Health Department this morning.

The full release can be found below:

Possible Exposure to Hepatitis A at Two Restaurant/Bars near Charlotte

The Mecklenburg County Health Department & the Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County (Cabarrus Health Alliance) have reported the possibility of exposure to Hepatitis A at two restaurants/bars near Charlotte. 

People who ate at Hooters on Bruton Smith Blvd. in Concord, N.C. on Feb. 7 or 8, 2013, between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. may have been exposed to hepatitis A. 

People who ate or drank at the Whiskey Warehouse, located at 1221 The Plaza in Charlotte on the following three dates: Feb. 6, 2013, between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; on Feb. 9, 2013, between the hours of 4:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m.; or on Feb. 13, between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., may also have been exposed to hepatitis A. 

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.  The hepatitis vaccine is very effective in reducing the risk of disease when administered within 14 days of the last day of exposure. Hepatitis A is usually spread by eating or drinking items that have been contaminated with the virus or by close personal contact with an infected person.

An employee of both restaurant/bars has been confirmed with having viral hepatitis A. Those who have had a hepatitis A infection or one hepatitis A vaccination are protected from the virus and do not need to take action. The Mecklenburg County Health Department, the Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County (Cabarrus Health Alliance), and the North Carolina Division of Public Health are recommending a vaccination or shot for exposed employees and patrons, if the vaccine or shot can be given within 14 days of the last exposure.

Any Buncombe County resident who ate or drank at either of these restaurants/bar should call the Buncombe County Department of Health Disease Control staff at (828) 250-5109.  The Health Department will assist exposed local residents in getting the Hepatitis A vaccine.

For Mecklenburg or Cabarrus county residents who may have been exposed, hepatitis A vaccines will be offered in their home counties beginning Wednesday, February 20. For questions or to learn about clinic times in these counties, call:
The Mecklenburg County Health Department at (704) 336-5398 or (704) 336-6436, or The Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County/Cabarrus Health Alliance at (704) 920-1213.

Symptoms of hepatitis A appear two to seven weeks after exposure and commonly include fever, a feeling of being unwell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal discomfort. Urine may become darker in color and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) may appear.

Some individuals, especially children, may not develop jaundice, and may have an illness so mild that it can go unnoticed. However, even mildly ill persons can still be highly infectious. Most people recover without complications after several weeks. People who have pre-existing liver problems can become extremely ill if they contract hepatitis A. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor.

The best way to prevent infection with Hepatitis A is to receive the vaccine proactively. Careful hand washing is effective in preventing the spread of hepatitis A and should include vigorous washing of hands with soap and running water for a minimum of 20 seconds. All surfaces should be washed, including the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. This is especially important after using the bathroom and before handling food or beverages.  Anyone who may have been exposed is strongly encouraged to follow this practice to reduce the risk of spreading illness to others.

For more information:
Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County (Cabarrus Health Alliance)
Health Information Line: (704) 920-1213

Mecklenburg County Health Department
Communicable Disease division: (704) 336-5398 or (704) 336-6436

CDC information at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/A/index.htm.


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