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

The restaurant team is working with the health department to prevent any new cases from arising in the community. As a precaution, all employees at this restaurant have been vaccinated prior to returning to work.

“While the risk of contracting Hepatitis A from visiting this restaurant is very low, people who have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A and who consumed food at the restaurant between Sept. 14, 2018, and Sept. 24, 2018, should consider getting the Hepatitis A vaccine not more than two weeks from the potential exposure to help prevent infection,” said Dr. I John Snyder, Jackson County health officer.

“It is important to note in more than 1,600 cases in West Virginia, not one case has been transmitted by food,” Snyder said.  

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 to observe 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.  

The franchisee who owns and operates this restaurant said employee and customer safety are a high priority. Stringent procedures are in place to ensure a safe, sanitary and well-maintained restaurant, the franchise owner said.

“Upon learning that one of our restaurant team members became ill, we took immediate action in partnership with the Jackson County Health Department. The employee in question is on leave and will not return to work until cleared by a medical professional. The restaurant team is continuing to work closely with the Health Department and is following all necessary protocols while upholding a commitment to the highest health and food safety standards,” the restaurant said in a statement.

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.

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.

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 hepawarewv.org.