December 27, 1999
Buncombe County Health Officials Warn Of
Hepatitis Threat at La Paz Restaurant
Asheville, NC (SafetyAlerts)
- The Buncombe County Health Center announced today that two cases of hepatitis A have
been confirmed. One of the cases poses a threat to the public due to food handling, which
occurred when the case was potentially contagious. The food handler, confirmed to have
hepatitis A, prepares and serves food at La Paz, a local restaurant. Individuals who may
have eaten food from La Paz on December 13 21, 1999, may have been exposed to the
hepatitis A virus and should get Immune globulin.
Contacting these individuals is critical because
Immune globulin, a serum which can prevent or reduce symptoms of hepatitis A, must be
given within two weeks after possible exposure" states George Bond, Health Director.
The Health Center staff have been in contact with La Paz to maximize efforts to contact
patrons who ate food during Dec. 13 21, 1999. "Our first priority is to contact
individuals who ate food from La Paz on Dec. 13th because they must receive Immune
globulin by Monday, Dec. 27th.
The Health Center, normally closed due to the
holidays, will open at 1:00 pm 4:00 pm on Monday, December 27th to make it possible
to offer the serum, especially for those who may have been exposed on December 13th.
"We are taking every possible precaution to prevent a major outbreak," says
Bond said, "La Paz has consistently
maintained a Grade A rating, which indicates a high level of sanitation and
food handling techniques. This is an important opportunity to inform all food
establishments that this can happen anywhere, at any time". Bond also recommends that
food handlers get a hepatitis A vaccination, which would greatly reduce the incidence of
this type of outbreak.
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by
the virus. The virus is found in the stool of persons with hepatitis A. The virus is
usually spread through fecal-oral contact or through contaminated food and water. For
example, you can get hepatitis A from an infected child if you dont wash your hands
after changing a diaper or from an infected person if they dont wash their hands
after going to the bathroom. If the fecal contaminant somehow gets on food for
example, if a contaminated cook handles food in a restaurant the disease can spread
Symptoms of hepatitis A include flu-like symptoms,
such as fever, chills, and a general feeling of weakness. Other symptoms include weight
loss, nausea, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), dark urine, light-colored stools,
and abdominal pain. Symptoms appear within 15 50 days, usually within 30 days, of
Although hepatitis A does not result in chronic
infection, complete recovery from hepatitis A can be slow. In children, especially in
those younger than 6 years of age, there are often no symptoms. Adult patients may be ill
for three to four weeks, and full recovery can take longer.
"The spread of hepatitis A is easily
prevented when individuals follow proper preventive measures," say Dr. Martha
Salyers, Medical Director at Buncombe County Health Center. "Those measures include
frequent hand washing in hot soapy water for at least 15 seconds, always before cooking
and eating, and after each visit to the toilet. Dish washing should be done in a
dishwasher or by hand at a high temperature. For persons with child care responsibilities,
hand washing should be done after each diaper change," says Salyers. She also adds
that persons using injectable drugs should not share needles or equipment since hepatitis
A as well as hepatitis B may be transmitted in this way.
As a result of the confirmed hepatitis A case the
Buncombe County Health Center recommends:
- People who ate food from La Paz on December 13
21, 1999, should receive Immune globulin to prevent hepatitis A. Immune globulin
must be given within 2 weeks of exposure. Individuals should not wait to be tested.
Preventive measures such as proper hand washing should be followed.
- Individuals who may have been exposed between
December 4 12, 1999 may have been exposed but will not benefit from receiving
Immune globulin. These individuals should watch for symptoms that may indicate hepatitis A
and see their physician or the Health Center immediately if these develop.
- Physicians should report suspected cases of
hepatitis A promptly. Contacts of suspected cases that receive Immune globulin within two
weeks of exposure greatly reduce their chances of developing hepatitis A.
- All food service establishments and workers should
emphasize use of proper food handling and hand washing procedures for all employees. BCHC
recommends that all food handlers get the hepatitis A and B vaccinations.
For more information call the Buncombe County
Health Center at 250-5214. Individuals can also contact their personal physician.
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