Food service worker at downtown Sarasota restaurant may have exposed guests to Hepatitis A

Hep A case confirmed at Duval's Restaurant in Sarasota

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A food service worker at a downtown Sarasota restaurant may have exposed guests to Hepatitis A.

The Florida Department of Health warned customers of Duval’s on Main Street in Sarasota that a food service worker has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A and may have exposed guests who visited the restaurant between April 26, 2019 and May 10, 2019.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver. People infected with Hepatitis A are most contagious from two weeks before onset of symptoms to one week afterwards. Not everyone who is infected will have all the symptoms. Symptoms usually start within 28 days of exposure to the virus with a range of 15-50 days.

The health department says the worker may have been infectious and says anyone who visited the restaurant and ate or drank there between May 3-10, 2019 should consider getting vaccinated.

Vaccination may provide protection if it is given within two weeks after being exposed. For those who have not been vaccinated, after your initial dose you will need to get a second after six months time.

Those who ate or drank at Duval’s can call the health department at 941-861-2900 for Hepatitis A information and to receive their first vaccination this weekend.

If you’ve previously been vaccinated, you do not need to take any action.

For those who may have been exposed before the two-week period for vaccination, monitor closely for Hepatitis A symptoms, which include the sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, pale white stools, and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice). Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention promptly.

ABC7 spoke to the management at Duval’s who provided us with this statement: "A part time employee who worked at Duvals between April 26-May 10, 2019, was reported with Hepatitis A.

The department of health responded with an investigation and to whether this employee who worked for us for a very brief time may have exposed others to the Hepatitis A virus.

Contamination was not found within the restaurant. No other employees have contracted the illness. Duvals of Sarasota sanitized the restaurant as advised by the department of health and then exceeded the recommendation. All of its employees that were present during the departments visit have been vaccinated against the virus that causes hepatitis A. And those who were not present have been notified and advised to be vaccinated as soon as they’re able to.

Due to this unfortunate circumstance, in addition to all current employees Duvals will mandate going forward all future employees be vaccinated against the virus that causes hepatitis A before getting hired.

All appropriate measures will continue to be taken to minimize any risks for the future. We value our customers and employees and look forward to serving Sarasota for years to come."

The health department in Sarasota is offering free vaccinations.

DOH - Sarasota, 2200 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota 34237 Ringling Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursdays: 8 - 11 a.m. and 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays: 8 - 11 a.m. Fridays: 8 - 11 a.m. and 12:30 - 3:30 p.m.

DOH - Sarasota, North Port, 6950 Outreach Way, North Port 34287 North Port Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursdays: 8 - 11:30 a.m. and 1 - 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays: 8 - 11:30 a.m. Fridays: 8 - 11:30 a.m. and 1 - 3:30 p.m.

Hepatitis A Cases Skyrocket in Florida

The health department says both Manatee and Sarasota counties have seen a significant increase in Hepatitis A cases.

So far this year in Manatee County there have been 19 cases, while Sarasota County has had seven. Statewide, there have been more than 1,000 cases, more than double than the number reported in 2018.

The health department says vaccination is the best way to prevent getting Hepatitis A, which is spread through food and drink contaminated with fecal matter from whose infected with Hepatitis A.

It recommends vaccinations for:

  • All children at the age of 12 months
  • People who are experiencing homelessness
  • Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • Men who have sexual encounters with other men
  • People with direct contact with others who have Hepatitis A
  • Travelers to countries where Hepatitis A is common
  • People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
  • People with clotting-factor disorders
  • Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where Hepatitis A is common

No medicines can cure Hepatitis A once symptoms appear. People with Hepatitis A symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

Most people get better over time but may need to be hospitalized.

Previous infection with Hepatitis A provides immunity for the rest of a person’s life.

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