DHEC: Customers who ate at Goose Creek Waffle House may have been exposed to Hepatitis A

VIDEO: Customers who ate at Goose Creek Waffle House may have been exposed to Hepatitis A

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Customers who ate at a Goose Creek Waffle House may have been exposed to Hepatitis A, according to state health officials.

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control reported on Tuesday that customers who ate at the Waffle House location on 120 S. Goose Creek Blvd. between Aug. 24 and Sept. 13, 2019, might have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus.

According to a report, DHEC officials were notified on Monday, Sept. 16 that an employee of the restaurant tested positive for Hepatitis A.

Waffle House company officials said that once they learned of the condition of the employee, they immediately closed the location to clean and sanitize. According to the company, the health department has determined the restaurant to be safe and is now open.

“We will vaccinate our employees at this location and all of our employees in the Charleston area,” the company said in a statement."To our knowledge no customer has contracted the virus from eating at our restaurant, however in an abundance of caution, we have taken these and other steps to ensure our employees and customers are safe."

DHEC officials said they are working with Waffle House to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.

Health officials said this illness is not a foodborne outbreak, and the concern is not the restaurant.

“It is with a food handler who has hepatitis A infection, and they can spread the virus up to two weeks before they know they are sick,” DHEC officials said."The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low."

A report states that the restaurant received an A rating from DHEC at the last inspection conducted on May 31, 2019.

“The restaurant is complying with DHEC’s recommendations,” DHEC officials said."As a precaution, in these situations, vaccination should be considered for individuals who were exposed during the time the food handler was contagious."

DHEC released the following additional information:

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 restaurant.People who ate food prepared at the restaurant between Sept. 3 and Sept. 13, 2019, may contact their medical provider or pharmacy about post exposure treatment. In South Carolina, adults 18 years and older can get vaccinated at some local pharmacies without a prescription, depending on your insurance coverage.

Restaurant patrons who were potentially exposed also can visit the Goose Creek Health Department, 106 Westview Dr., Goose Creek, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 19) and Friday (Sept. 20). No appointment is necessary.

The vaccine is not shown to prevent infection when administered more than 14 days after a specific exposure. However, vaccination more than 14 days after exposure will give long-lasting protection from infection from future exposures.

As of today, customers and staff who ate at the restaurant between Aug. 24 and Sept. 2, 2019, are not likely to benefit from post-exposure treatment. Anyone who ate at the restaurant between these dates should watch for symptoms of infection, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin. People usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed to the virus. Seek medical care if symptoms develop. DHEC declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak on May 13, based on a steady increase in the number of cases. Between Nov. 1, 2018, and Sept. 13, 2019, 409 hepatitis A cases have been reported. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. Certain individuals are at greater risk for severe hepatitis A infection and are encouraged to seek vaccination. Those individuals include anyone with a weakened immune system, liver disease (such as hepatitis B or C) or anyone who abuses injection or non- injection drugs.

If patrons of the restaurant have questions or concerns, they may contact DHEC’s Careline at 1- 855-4SC-DHEC (1-855-472-3432). Careline staff will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. to answer your questions. For more information on hepatitis A, visitthe DHEC website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. People usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms of infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin.

Certain individuals are at greater risk for severe hepatitis A infection and are encouraged to seek vaccination. Those individuals include anyone with a weakened immune system, liver disease (such as hepatitis B or C) or anyone who abuses injection or non-injection drugs.

Vaccination

Talk to your medical provider about the hepatitis A vaccine. In South Carolina, adults 18 years and older can get vaccinated at some local pharmacies without a prescription, depending on your insurance coverage. To search for a nearby pharmacy that offers vaccines, visit www.vaccinefinder.org.

DHEC’s local health departments also provide hepatitis A vaccines. DHEC has an Adult Vaccine Program that provides low-cost vaccines for uninsured or underinsured individuals who are 19 years and older.

DHEC’s local health departments are currently providing no-cost hepatitis A vaccines to individuals in at-risk groups (drug users, homeless, recently incarcerated, and men who have sex with men).

To schedule an appointment for vaccination at your local health department, call 855-472-3432 or visit www.scdhec.gov/HealthClinics.

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