Tillamook hepatitis A outbreak at Sharky’s restaurant cause for public health concern

TILLAMOOK, OR – While the health department investigates the cause of a hepatitis A outbreak among customers who ate at Sharky’s restaurant in Tillamook between April 15th and April 30th, it is important for all Tillamook County residents to be aware of the risk for secondary transmission of the hepatitis A virus, and to be well versed in the symptoms of hepatitis A.

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include fatigue, fever, malaise, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, and jaundice. Individuals who were exposed to the hepatitis A virus can prevent infection by getting an injection of Immune globulin serum. If administered within 2 weeks of the exposure, it will usually be effective in preventing or at least ameliorating the disease.

Hepatitis A is highly contagious. In some people, the infection can be mild and can spread easily if they do not realize they are ill and fail to wash their hands thoroughly. Typically, one hears of outbreaks in restaurants stemming from an infected food handler. Dozens of people became ill with hepatitis A after eating at two Subway sandwich outlets in the Seattle area in 1999. In 2004, at least four people became ill with hepatitis A after eating at a restaurant near Rochester, New York. One man died.

Recently, contaminated produce has been the source of hepatitis A outbreaks: At least three separate hepatitis A outbreaks in Los Angeles County, California, were traced to contaminated lettuce in late 2005. In 2003, the largest hepatitis A outbreak in US history was traced to contaminated green onions served at a Mexican chain restaurant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One man received a liver transplant, and four people died after suffering severe hepatitis A infections.

For further information, visit www.about-hepatitis.com, a Web site sponsored by the Marler Clark attorneys, a Seattle law firm that has represented hundreds of victims of hepatitis A outbreaks.