The Jackson County Health Department has confirmed a case of Hepatitis A in a food service worker employed at Bob Evan’s Restaurant in Ripley.

There have been nine other cases of Hepatitis A in Jackson County as of July 14, but this is the first case in Jackson County of a food service employee.

Through an investigation by the Jackson County Health Department, the risk of restaurant patrons contracting Hepatitis A was found to be very low, officials said.

Inspectors were on site at the establishment and spent time talking with employees while observing food handling procedures.

Officials said a key common pattern of practice observed was all food handlers in this restaurant wore gloves. The restaurant voluntarily closed to clean and sanitize and has since been reopened following an inspection by the Health Department.

Health Department said the purpose of this alert is preventative as well as informative; no cases resulting from exposure while visiting the restaurant have been reported.

Most cases reported throughout the state have been person-to-person contact occurring primarily among people who are transients, those who are homeless, persons who use injection and non-injection drugs, and their close direct contacts, health department officials said.

Bob Evans is working with the health department to prevent any new cases from arising in the community. As a precaution, all employees are being vaccinated prior to their return to work, health department officials said.

“While the risk of contracting Hepatitis A from visiting Bob Evans is very low, people who have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A and who consumed food at the restaurant between June 30, 2018 and July 14, 2018 should consider getting the Hepatitis A vaccine not more than two weeks from the potential exposure to help prevent infection,” said Jackson County Health Officer Dr. I. John Snyder.

A Bob Evans spokesperson stated, “Bob Evans is committed to the health and safety of employees and guests. As soon as Bob Evan’s was made aware of the situation, we quickly took action with Jackson County Health Department to ensure all necessary steps were taken to guarantee the safety of our employees and our community.”

The employee is on leave and will not return to work until cleared by a medical professional, a restaurant spokesman said.

“Bob Evan’s is continuing to work closely with the Health Department to follow all necessary protocols while upholding a commitment to the highest health and food safety standards within all restaurants, including the Ripley restaurant,” the spokesman said.

Bob Evan’s is also encouraging guests and the public who may have questions or concerns to reach out to the food safety and customer care line at 888-648-1614.

Health department officials said Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown-colored urine, and light-colored stools.

Yellowing of the skin or eyes may also appear. People may have some or none of these symptoms. It could take up to 50 days after being exposed to the virus for someone to become ill, but most people experience symptoms within 28-30 days after being exposed.

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.

The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet, changing diapers, or engages in behaviors that increase the risk of infection.

The best means of prevention is through proper handwashing. This includes using soap and hot water, not hand sanitizer, after using the restroom and prior to handling food. Proper handwashing is the most important factor in preventing the spread of many diseases, particularly Hepatitis A.

Persons suspecting that they have symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider. Persons working as food handlers who experience symptoms of Hepatitis A should not work and should be seen by a healthcare provider.

Individuals with questions should contact their personal health care provider or the Jackson County Health Department at 304-372-2634.

This investigation is part of a multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A. The Jackson County Health Department is working closely with the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health to address cases, contacts, and immunization in high-risk populations. Further information on Hepatitis A can be obtained at hepawarewv.org.