As many as 5,000 patrons of a Missouri Red Robin may have been exposed to hepatitis A from a sick employee, authorities say.
An employee who had the disease for months and was possibly still contagious worked at the restaurant up until May 16.
CNN reports that the local health department inspected the facility and deemed it safe. However, the New Jersey-based chain restaurant is not taking any chances, telling customers who had eaten at the Springfield, Missouri restaurant between May 8 and 16 to call the health department for advice.
The company would not say where in the restaurant the employee worked, whether it was flipping burgers or serving food.
"It scared me because my husband has been sick," Red Robin customer Andrea Hall told KOLR. "And a lot of his symptoms of his matched. A red flag just went off and I was like, what do I do from here."
The Health Department has responded by ordering 4,000 doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. It considers the situation a “serious public health threat,” but it also reminds the public that most people are vaccinated for the disease anyway.
The hepatitis A vaccines can effectively stave off the illness if taken within 14 days of infection.
Symptoms of the disease, which shows signs 28-30 days after infection, include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and dark urine. Hepatitis A inflames the liver and affects its ability to function. Most cases clear up on their own, but some can result in permanent liver damage and death.
The restaurant said that the sick employee wouldn’t be back on the job until being given medical clearance.