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December 3, 1999

Hepatitis A Outbreak in St. Louis Linked to Downtown Deli

16 confirmed Cases Reported

St. Louis, MO (SafetyAlerts) - The Health Departments of St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County in Missouri and Madison County in Illinois are alerting area residents to several recent cases of hepatitis A linked to a downtown St. Louis restaurant.

The St. Louis City Health Department Wednesday closed the Market Street Deli at 2906 Market St. after receiving reports of hepatitis A cases in persons who had eaten food from that establishment recently.

Health officials are also advising persons who ate food from the Market Street Deli between October 15 and November 15 to be alert to symptoms of hepatitis A and to consult their health care providers if they become ill.

Symptoms usually develop 15 to 50 days following an exposure and typically last one to two weeks or longer. Symptoms may include abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, low grade fever, nausea, pale stools, yellow skin and eyes, loss of appetite, tiredness and dark urine. Physicians should request the specific test for IgM antibodies to hepatitis A on all suspect cases and should notify their Health Department of suspected cases before the final blood work is reported.

Officials emphasized the importance of thorough hand washing in preventing the spread of hepatitis A and also stressed that food service workers should not be at work when they are ill -- especially if they have diarrhea. Confirmed cases linked to the Market Street Deli have been reported in St. Louis City (1), St. Louis County(8) and St. Charles County(4) in Missouri, and Madison County(3) in Illinois. All of the persons reported eating at the Market Street Deli near the end of October.

After receiving reports of the hepatitis A cases, the St. Louis City Health Department inspected the restaurant Wednesday morning and also tested employees there to see if any were infected with the hepatitis A virus. One of the employees tested positive for hepatitis A.

Persons become infected with the hepatitis A virus by ingesting fecal-contaminated material. This can happen when fecal matter gets into food if the person preparing or serving the food has not washed hands after using the bathroom.

Officials said that although the area is seeing more hepatitis A cases than is usual, the St. Louis area is not experiencing an epidemic such as that in l993 when St. Louis City alone recorded more than 700 cases. St. Louis City has recorded 61 hepatitis A cases to date in l999, compared to 19 during all of l998. St. Louis County has recorded 51 cases in l999, compared to 21 in 1998. Other jurisdictions are also seeing higher numbers of cases than they have seen in recent years.

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