In October of 2001, the D’Angelo’s corporate office contacted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to inform MDPH that one of its employees had been diagnosed with hepatitis A, and that he had been working at two different D’Angelo’s delis - at Swansea and Seekonk, during his infectious period.
D’Angelo’s regional and corporate managers assured MDPH that the infected employee, who was ServSafe certified, was fanatical about hand washing and wore gloves when preparing food and touching surfaces. The corporate office then voluntarily closed the Swansea store, without public notice of the illness. Thirty doses of immuno globulin (“IG”) were sent to a walk-in clinic in Seekonk to be administered to all employees.
On Saturday, October 27, the Swansea Board of Health (“SBH”) became aware that the store had reopened for business, and inspected that store. The SBH inspector and town nurse were informed by the D’Angelo’s district manager at the store that the MDPH had authorized the store to reopen if all employees had been given shots and if the sick employee stayed away from work until healthy. No public notice of the hepatitis A illness of the D’Angelo’s employee, and of the fact that he had worked during at least 15 days of his infectious period, was provided at the time.
On November 20, 2002, the MDPH was notified of seven confirmed hepatitis A cases in the area. All local boards of health were notified, and an investigation into this hepatitis A outbreak began.
Ultimately, the investigators identified a total of 53 hepatitis A cases meeting the definition of an outbreak-case. An epidemiological analysis of the case interviews revealed an association between the hepatitis A illness and the consumption of food from D’Angelo’s. Two of the confirmed cases were food workers employed at Rudy’s Country Store. Both employees had eaten at the Swansea D’Angelo’s three to four weeks prior to the onset of their respective symptoms. Both of the Rudy’s employees who tested positive had contact with food served to customers.
On November 27, 2001, a press release and public notice was published notifying the patrons of Rudy’s of their potential exposure to hepatitis A, and recommending that patrons who had eaten food from Rudy’s during the period from November 5 to November 23, 2001 obtain IG shots. A clinic was held at Charlton Memorial Hospital to provide these treatments on November 29 and 30. Approximately 1600 persons obtained IG shots there during those two days. No hepatitis A cases were linked to the consumption of food sold at Rudy’s.
Marler Clark represented fifteen people who contracted hepatitis A after being exposed at D’Angelo’s in claims against the restaurant. The firm also filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all people who were forced to receive immune globulin shots to prevent hepatitis A infection. $200 settlement checks were mailed to 1,347 members of the class after the case was resolved.
More about the D'Angelo's hepatitis A outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.