Beaufort News

DHEC reveals Hepatitis A threat at Hilton Head restaurant

Customers and staff who went to or worked at Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks Feb. 15 are being urged to seek medical treatment for possible exposure to the Hepatitis A virus, according to a news release Saturday from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

On Friday, DHEC was notified an employee of the Hilton Head Island eatery had tested positive for Hepatitis A, a disease that causes inflammation of the liver, the release said. The employee had been away, returned to work Feb. 15 and was later hopspitalized.

Anyone who was at the restaurant from 4 p.m. until closing time Feb. 15 -- when the infected employee was working -- should contact their primary care provider to receive a single-dose vaccine no later than March 1.

Those who have already been vaccinated are not at risk, DHEC communications director Mark Plowden said. However, individuals should consult a physician if they are unsure whether they have been vaccinated, he said.

The treatment must be administered within 14 days of possible exposure, the release said.

"People usually become sick within 15 to 50 days after being exposed to the virus, so it's important to contact your doctor to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent the virus from developing," said Anita Brock, director of DHEC's Bureau of Disease Control.

Symptoms include fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected individuals may also experience joint pain and jaundice.

Most patients recover completely within two months, but symptoms can persist for up to six months in severe cases, according to the CDC.

The infection is relatively rare in the United States, with about 20,000 new cases reported to the CDC each year.

The Hudson's employee is being treated for the infection and has not returned to work, the release said.

The restaurant is working with DHEC to contact customers and staff who may have been exposed to the virus, which can be spread by improper hand washing. The possible exposure is not a food-borne outbreak, the release said.

"Hudson's Restaurant has a long history of 'A' compliance ratings and safe food service," owner Brian Carmines in the DHEC release. "We are determined to take whatever steps DHEC recommends to ensure the safety of our customers and staff.

For more information, call DHEC at 1-800-868-0404. Operators are available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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