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August 5, 2000

Potential Hepatitis A Exposure at I-75 Eatery In Cleveland, Tennessee

Cleveland, TN -- The Bradley County   Health  Department has been notified of a case of hepatitis A in a food service worker who worked until July 31 at a local restaurant. Persons who recently ate at the Waffle House at Paul Huff Parkway in Cleveland (133 James Asberry Dr. NW) may have been exposed to hepatitis A if they ate at the restaurant on Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23 or after 9:00 p.m. on Friday, July 28 through Tuesday, August 1. Only people who visited the restaurant during those times were at risk of exposure.
Because the Waffle House is located off I-75 at Exit 27 and is heavily visited by interstate travelers, there will be people who live outside the Cleveland area who need to be treated. The Department of Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to share the information with other states.

"When hepatitis A occurs in a restaurant worker who directly handles food, precautions must be taken by the health department to protect the public and prevent an outbreak," said Janet Ridley, nursing director.

Medication called immune globulin (IG) may prevent infection or diminish the severity of the illness, but only if it is given within two weeks of exposure. Immune globulin will be available for patrons who ate at the restaurant at the Bradley County Health Department on Friday, August 4 from 1:00 to 8:00 p.m., Saturday, August 5 from 8:00 8:00 p.m., Sunday, August 6th from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., and Monday, August 7th from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Individuals potentially exposed on July 21st must receive IG on August 4th in order for the medication to be potentially effective; those exposed July 22nd must receive IG by Saturday, August 5. The medication is free of charge. Several basic questions about health status will be asked before the injection is administered. People who may have been exposed and live outside the Cleveland area should contact their local county health department to inquire about treatment options.

Hepatitis A is a virus that is spread person-to-person by close personal contact, or by contaminated food handled by persons who have not adequately washed their hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Hepatitis A usually causes loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin) two to six weeks after exposure. Mild illnesses last from one to two weeks, but recovery can take several months in severe cases. Anyone with symptoms of hepatitis A should see a physician.

Those who were potentially exposed should be particularly thorough in hand washing after toilet use and prior to food preparation to avoid any further potential spread of disease. Hand washing should include vigorous soaping of the hands, including the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. The hands should then be thoroughly rinsed with running water and dried with a disposable towel.

The Bradley County Health Department is located at 201 Dooley St, S.E. Anyone who has questions can call the health department at (423) 476-0568.

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