Woman's Suit Alleges She Got Hepatitis at McDonald's

A woman who says she contracted hepatitis-A after eating a sandwich at a Mount Vernon McDonald's has sued the restaurant.

The woman, Helen Cook of Mount Vernon, said she became ill after eating at the Riverside Drive restaurant in February 1998.

McDonald's did not immediately comment on the lawsuit, filed yesterday in Skagit County Superior Court. But Seattle attorney William Marler, representing Cook, said her illness is a reminder of how vulnerable Americans have become to disease transmitted through food. "It just underscores the need for fast-food restaurants to be ever vigilant about how they handle their product, how they cook their product and who they have working," he said.

Cook ate breakfast at the Mount Vernon McDonald's before going to a nearby nursing home to care for her mother. According to the suit, she began to feel sick during a trip to Palm Springs, Calif., when she suffered from fatigue, cold sweats and abdominal soreness. After suffering intense pain and vomiting in April, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with hepatitis.

The Skagit County Health Department, which had reports of nine cases of hepatitis-A in the area, traced the outbreak to the McDonald's, where an assistant manager had the virus and continued to work, Marler said. Yesterday's suit was the second filed by Marler's firm against the same restaurant. The previous suit sought damages on behalf of Nyssa Hall, then 6, who was sickened by E. coli bacteria from undercooked hamburger.

McDonald's settled the case for an undisclosed sum, Marler said.