SALT LAKE CITY -- People who ate or drank at Salt Lake City’s New Yorker Restaurant between July 25 and Aug. 15 may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.
The health department said this possible exposure may affect up to 650 people who ate at the restaurant during that time.
Hepatitis A is a virus that targets the liver and “is transmitted via fecal, oral route,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, the medical director with Salt Lake County Health Department.
“The bottom line is when people go to the bathroom they don’t wash their hands thoroughly, and when they come back they contaminate the food or beverages,” she added.
In this particular case, a single employee who was infected with the virus was handling food and beverages causing the potential exposure.
The New Yorker Restaurant previously offered hepatitis A vaccinations to its employees during two January clinics, but the employee responsible for the possible exposure chose not to receive it.
The health department said the best defense people have against this disease is proper hand washing and vaccination. Unfortunately, it is too late for the people involved in this exposure to receive preventive vaccinations.
“It is too late for people who consumed items at the restaurant between the dates listed to receive preventive vaccination, so those individuals should watch for symptoms of hepatitis A and see their healthcare provider if they are concerned,” a news release from the health department said.
So far, the health department said there have not been any illnesses reported, but given hepatitis A’s long incubation period, there still could be.
“The incubation period is long for hepatitis A, it is 15 to 50 days so we have until Oct. 3 from the very last exposure date where people can still exhibit the symptoms,” Vitek said.
Those who have received the vaccination (two doses) against hepatitis A do not need to be concerned, according to the health department.
Those who have not been vaccinated should be on the lookout for symptoms including, a low fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice).
“In Salt Lake County, hepatitis A vaccination is not required for food workers unless the establishment has an employee with a known exposure to the virus. Accordingly, all New Yorker employees who were not already vaccinated against hepatitis A must now be vaccinated before returning to work,” the news release said.
The health department said it can happen at any restaurant.
“As a manager, you can supervise everything that happens at a restaurant but you don’t necessarily follow your people to the bathroom,” Vitek said. “There is no specific treatment so most of the time the treatment is supportive."
The health department said this is the latest in a string of hepatitis A exposures throughout the state.
“We currently have, in the state of Utah, 275 cases and 190 of those outbreak-related cases are in Salt Lake County,” said Vitek.
According to the Salt Lake County Health Department, the hepatitis A vaccine is covered by most insurance plans and is widely available to local pharmacies, health care providers, and the county’s immunization clinics. Call 385-468-7468 to make an appointment at a health department immunization clinic.