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Hepatitis A Scare in NYC Restaurant, Health Department Urges Tests

People who ate at a New York City restaurant are frantic after learning that an employee who handled desserts was infected with hepatitis A, prompting more than 200 people to receive vaccinations over the weekend.

Alta tapas restaurant is in Manhattan's West Village. They suspect around 450 people to have potentially been exposed to the virus from March 23 to April 2. Since the employee only handled desserts, they do not believe anyone who did not order desserts was exposed to it.

In total, around 3,000 people ate at the restaurant during that time, but only 15 percent ordered sweets.

There has not yet been a confirmed case and the health department has not determined if there is concrete evidence that the food was contaminated. 

If the employee followed proper hand washing guidelines, they may not have infected the desserts.

Hepatitis A spreads through the mouth from traces of fecal matter in an infected person. It is spread when the infected person does not wash their hands before handling food. The health department warns that, although the food might have looked clean, it could have been contaminated with microscopic bacteria.

When a person contracts the virus, they may experience jaundice, as it affects the liver. They may also experience fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. There is not a specific way of treating it after symptoms appear.

Usually, the virus is not fatal, unless someone who has a weakened immune system or a liver disease contracts it. In those cases, the person may have to be hospitalized.

It is relatively rare, infecting about 65 people per year in New York City. Only one or two of those occurs in food handlers. 

The owner of Alta said that the employee with hepatitis is not working for them any longer.

Sources: CNN, CBS News


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