Author: Francis Kelley/Fri, Aug 30, 2013/Categories: Long Island Accidents

hepatitis_outbreak_long_island_restaurantNearly 7,000 people who dined at a Southampton restaurant may have been exposed to hepatitis A, according to the Suffolk County health department.

According to Newsday, the Department of Health Services said it was launching an investigation into a case of hepatitis A at the restaurant The Driver’s Seat, where about 6,750 people dined between Aug. 6 and Aug. 15, the window when exposure to the virus was possible.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and jaundice, which features a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Anyone experiencing any of these things should contact their doctor if they become ill, the department said.

About 28 days after exposure is when the symptoms usually start to appear; then there is a 15- to 50-day window for them to develop. There is no specific treatment for the illness, the department said.

The virus can be spread via eating contaminated food or drink – that had been handled by an infected person, for example. It can also spread person to person through fecal matter.

Those who have already been vaccinated for hepatitis A or who have already had the illness are protected. Pregnant women, however, should consult their doctor.

Free Treatment Available

No-cost preventive treatment is available at Southampton Hospital or at health department offices at 3500 Sunrise Hwy., in Great River. For additional details, call the health department hotline at 631-787-2200 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

According to a health department spokeswoman quoted by Newsday, this particular case of hepatitis A centers on one of the restaurant’s former food runners/waiters who had visited Ecuador. He had returned to the U.S. shortly before working at the Driver’s Seat from Aug. 6 to Aug. 20. He left and in another part of New York was diagnosed with the virus after he was hospitalized. The restaurant learned about it after the fact.

So far, the spokeswoman told Newsday, he was the only worker out of a staff of 40 to have shown symptoms of the virus; the rest are now being immunized against hepatitis A.

The restaurant, which serves between 400 and 450 meals a day, “has been thoroughly cooperative and is working very closely with the health department,” the spokeswoman told Newsday.

The risk of infection from an infected food handler is “generally low,” said Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken.

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