The Jackson County Health Department has confirmed a case of Hepatitis A in a food service worker employed at Ponderosa in Ripley. This is the third case in Jackson county of a food service employee.

“While the risk of contracting Hepatitis A from visiting Ponderosa is very low, people who have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A and who consumed food at the restaurant between August 17, 2018 and September 2, 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.

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

Inspectors were on site at the establishment and spent time talking with employees while observing food handling procedures. All food handlers in this restaurant were seen routinely wearing gloves. The restaurant voluntarily closed to clean and sanitize and has since been reopened following an inspection by the Health Department.

Scott Ludwig, Owner and General Manager of the Ponderosa Restaurant stated “Ponderosa has always been committed to the highest standards of cleanliness at the restaurant.”

“We have received many perfect Health Department inspections over the last few years. Upon learning of the employee’s diagnosis, even though the virus was not contracted here, we immediately brought in an outside professional commercial cleaning service to sanitize and clean the entire restaurant from the floors to the ceiling and everything in between. The employee was never involved in any food preparation,” Ludwig said.

“The employee will not return to work until they have been cleared by a medical professional and approved to return by the Health Department. We are working diligently with the Jackson County Health Department to ensure that our restaurant continues to be a safe place for our customers and our employees,” Ludwig 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 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.

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.

Persons suspecting that they have symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their health care provider. Persons working as food handlers who experience symptoms of Hepatitis A should not work and should be seen by a health care 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 WV Bureau of Public Health to address cases, contacts and immunization in high risk populations. Further information on Hepatitis A can be obtained at http://www.hepawarewv.org .