South Carolina Agency Warns of Possible Hepatitis A Exposures at Two Restaurants, Nevada Outbreak Confirmed

Dr. Linda Bell, physician and South Carolina's state epidemiologist, said this is not a foodborne outbreak, and the concern is with the food handlers who are infected, not with the restaurants. Both received A ratings from DHEC at their most recent inspections.

South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control has announced that customers who ate at Harbour Town Yacht Club on Hilton Head Island and at a Popeyes restaurant in Aiken may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. Dr. Linda Bell, physician and state epidemiologist, said this is not a foodborne outbreak, and the concern is with the food handlers who are infected, not with the yacht club or restaurant. The yacht club received an A rating from DHEC at the last inspection conducted March 8, 2019, and the Popeyes restaurant received an A rating at the last inspection conducted on Jan. 8, 2019.

The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low, Bell said June 18. "The real concern in South Carolina is the spread of hepatitis A among high-risk groups and people who live with and have close contact to a person with hepatitis A. DHEC has been working to vaccinate and educate people in high-risk groups to prevent a widespread outbreak," she added.

The agency reported that it was notified June 17 that an employee of the yacht club tested positive for hepatitis A, and guests who ate at three events at the yacht club could have been exposed: a social on June 8, a dinner on June 13, and a wedding party on June 14. DHEC is working with Harbour Town to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected. Post-exposure vaccination should be considered for individuals who have not been vaccinated if it can be given within two weeks from their date of consuming anything from the establishment, according to the department.

The department also was notified June 17 that an employee of the restaurant tested positive for hepatitis A. Customers who ate there between May 29 and June 12 could have been exposed to the virus. DHEC ais working with Popeyes to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.

DHEC declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak on May 13, 2019, based on what it describes as "a steady increase in cases." Between Nov. 1, 2018, and June 14, 2019, 147 hepatitis A cases have been reported in South Carolina.

A number of states are reporting Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Southern Nevada Health District reported one June 19, reporting that it has confirmed a significant increase in the number of acute hepatitis A cases in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. Between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2019, there have been 37 reported acute hepatitis A cases, compared to 17 reported cases in 2018, no reported case in 2017, and six reported cases in 2016 during the same period, the Nevada agency reported. Of the 37 reported cases, 86 percent were people who used drugs, and 65 percent were among people experiencing homelessness.

"This current outbreak of hepatitis A in our community is an unfortunate but important reminder of why vaccines are vital to both our individual and community health," said Dr. Joe Iser, chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District. Its news release stated that since March 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has assisted multiple states and local health authorities in their responses to hepatitis A outbreaks. As of June 7, 2019, 22 states have reported 19,723 cases of the virus, resulting in 11,331 hospitalizations and 189 deaths.

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