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Western Sizzlin Restaurant Linked to Hepatitis A Scare in Tennessee

For anyone who ate at the Western Sizzlin Restaurant in Ooltewah TN, around the time of March 10-20, 2019, they are advised to get their hepatitis A vaccine. The health department confirms that an employee of the restaurant worked during that time period in a food handling role while contagious with hepatitis A. Special vaccination clinics are being offered at 3rd Street, Sunday 3/24 1-6PM, Monday 3/25 8AM-6PM, and Tuesday 3/26 8AM-6PM, and at the Ooltewah health center Monday 3/25 8AM-6PM, and Tuesday 3/26 8AM-6PM. Additional protective measures, such as immune globulin injections, may be indicated for some people. For more information read below, or if you have any questions, please call the Epidemiology section at 423-209-8190.

The current number of cases (above) is significant because normally about 0 to 1 cases are reported to our Epidemiology section each year. We have to view this in light of the fact that both Middle Tennessee and other states around the country (Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Utah, and West Virginia) are experiencing outbreaks of hepatitis A. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department’s objective at this point in time is to take action to prevent the spread of the disease locally. Hepatitis A is vaccine-preventable and washing one’s hands before eating, preparing food and drink, or after changing diapers is one of the best ways to protect oneself.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection.
What are the symptoms?

Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.
What are the major risk factors?

Those considered at high risk for hepatitis A infection in the larger Middle Tennessee outbreak include:

  • People who abuse drugs
  • People experiencing homelessness, and
  • Men who have sex with men.

Get the safe and effective hepatitis A vaccine, available from any of our clinics for free to those who are in the high risk groups.

Wash hands frequently and thoroughly before eating, before preparing food or drinks, and after changing diapers.

Avoid recreational drug use.

Using appropriate protection during sex.

How serious is this disease?

The disease can be mild in most people, serious in some, and can result in hospitalization or death. During a similar outbreak in San Diego County, California, from September 1, 2017, to January 23, 2018, 589 cases were reported with 404 (68.6%) hospitalizations and 20 (3.4%) deaths. Notably, this outbreak has had a high hospitalization rate among those infected with hepatitis A.

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