Hepatitis A scare at NYC restaurant

Sunday, April 7, 2013 - 11:36am

If you ate dessert at a small plate restaurant on Manhattan's West Village, you should consider getting a hepatitis vaccine.

An employee handling sweets at the Alta tapas restaurant between March 23 and April 2 was infected with hepatitis A, New York City's health department said.

There are no confirmed cases of patrons contracting the disease, health officials said in a statement. But they advise guests who ordered dessert during the time in question to get a shot as a precautionary measure. The department did not say if there is concrete evidence the virus actually ended up in food.

The restaurant believes that about 3,000 people ate there during that time, and about 15% of patrons -- or 450 -- ordered dessert.

Hepatitis A spreads by mouth via traces of fecal matter from an infected person, the health department said. If someone with the disease does not wash his or her hands before preparing food, the food can become contaminated.

The disease infects the liver and causes jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Since type A hepatitis is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics, but it is rarely deadly, the health department said.

An average of 65 people per year in all of New York City contract the disease, according to the NYCHD. One or two of them are usually food handlers.

The restaurant owner said that the infected employee is no longer "on the premises."
 

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