An employee of Frisch’s Big Boy on Harrodsburg Road in Lexington has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
All customers who ate at the restaurant from Oct. 10-28 may have been exposed to the virus and are advised to get a hepatitis A vaccination, the health department said. The employee is not currently working at the restaurant and will remain off work until cleared to return.
The health department said it is relatively uncommon for restaurant customers to become infected with hepatitis A due to an infected food handler, but the health department does recommended the vaccination.
In September, the Lexington health department recommended that all Fayette County residents get their hepatitis A vaccinations when the number of cases in the region began to surge.
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“The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated,” Fayette Commissioner of Health Dr. Kraig Humbaugh said in September. “The vaccine is effective and has an excellent track record. However, most adults have not yet been immunized since the vaccine was not given routinely as part of their childhood schedule of shots.”
Statewide, there have been more than 2,200 cases since August 2017, including 36 in Lexington, said Jessica Cobb, community health officer for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
This is the first time a Fayette County restaurant employee has been diagnosed with hepatitis A during this outbreak, she said.
But based on the experiences in other areas, “we knew that it would probably be a matter of time before this happened in Fayette County,” Cobb said.
“This person worked for several days while they were ill,” she said. “If they had improper hand washing at any point in time they could’ve possibly transmitted the virus by not washing their hands and touching either food or any of the door handles or any of the restaurant’s plates and dishes and anything.”
Cobb said Frisch’s has been cleaned with an EPA-approved sanitizer, and “they’re also working with us to make sure that their employees get vaccinated.”
Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine and yellowing of the skin and eyes. People can become ill 15 days to 50 days after being exposed to the virus, the health department said.
The disease is “usually spread when a person unknowingly eats or drinks something contaminated by small amounts of stool from an infected person,” according to the health department.