Up to 5,000 exposed to hepatitis at Mo. restaurant

May 23, 2014 - 5:04 AM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Health in Missouri officials are offering immunizations for up to 5,000 people who might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus at a Springfield restaurant.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced Wednesday that a Red Robin restaurant reported that a worker had the liver disease. People who visited the restaurant between May 8 and May 16 can receive the immunizations.

Officials told The Springfield News-Leader (http://sgfnow.co/1oT4Woh) that customers must be vaccinated within 14 days of their possible exposure for the vaccination to work.

Kathryn Wall, a spokeswoman for the health department, said people may have been exposed as early as May 4, although she could not estimate how many.

"Those individuals should monitor their health and report symptoms to their health care providers," she said.

Wall said the sick worker was a server, and that the Health Department has not confirmed any new hepatitis A cases. Health officials said the Red Robin is now safe to visit.

Allyson Tuckness and her husband, Chris, ate at Red Robin on May 16 with their toddler, Mason. She said their son has already had vaccinations against hepatitis A.

"I'm annoyed that it happened but glad we found out during the incubation period," Tuckness said.

Hepatitis A infects the liver, and can result in a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It spreads through consuming fecal matter, which makes it different from hepatitis B and C, which spread through blood and body fluids. It's also generally milder than the other two — rarely fatal, and most people experience no lasting liver damage.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com