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Hepatitis A confirmed in Boise restaurant food service employee

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Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 19:23:48-05

BOISE, Idaho — A case of hepatitis A has been confirmed in a food service employee who worked while contagious at the Black Bear Diner, at 7530 State Street in Boise, according to the Central District Health Department.

The employee worked only at the northwest Boise location, which is under separate ownership from the south Boise location, which shares the same name.

Hepatitis A is a virus that affects the liver and can make people sick for a number of weeks, health officials say. To date, the food service worker is the only hepatitis A case in Idaho associated with this restaurant.

The risk of becoming infected with hepatitis A through an infected food service worker is low. However, the CDH encourages anyone within complete or unknown hepatitis A vaccine status who ate at the State Street Black Bear Diner on a date listed below to consider getting vaccinated.

The dates of potential exposure are:

-January 26*, 30*, 31* (2020)

-February 1*, 2*, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16 (2020)

* As of 2/19/2020, specified dates are outside of the two-week window to receive vaccine to protect from this potential exposure; those previously vaccinated for hepatitis A are considered protected.

People who ate at this restaurant on any of these dates are encouraged to check their vaccine records to determine if they have received the hepatitis A vaccine. Those who are unvaccinated and were potentially exposed can receive protection from hepatitis A if they get immunized within two weeks of the date they were exposed.

It may be helpful for anyone who may have eaten at this restaurant during this timeframe to reference any receipts or charges to their credit or debit cards for specific dates, officials said.

If it has been longer than two weeks since the potential exposure date, you are outside the window for protection from this exposure. Though the risk of becoming infected with hepatitis A through an infected food service worker is low, you are encouraged to watch for symptoms, which usually start within 28 days of exposure, but can occur anywhere from 15 to 50 days of exposure.

Symptoms may include abdominal pain, dark urine, fatigue, fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), light-colored stools, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. If symptoms occur, seek medical attention. Not everyone infected with hepatitis A will experience all of the symptoms and some will not have any symptoms.

Because the investigation is ongoing, it is possible that dates could change. Any updates to this list will be posted at the Central District Health Department’s website: www.cdh.idaho.gov/dac-hepa

Vaccine status can often be determined by your health care provider. Impacted patrons and employees can call CDH to look up their vaccine status, make a vaccine appointment, or ask questions related to hepatitis A and potential exposure by calling 208-321-2222 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Messages left after hours will be returned the following business day.

Hepatitis A is a virus that affects the liver and easily spreads by entering the mouth after someone touches an object, food, or drink contaminated with the virus. If an infected person does not wash their hands well, especially after using the bathroom, small amounts of virus can spread from the hands of the infected person to other objects, surfaces, and food. The virus can make people sick for a number of weeks.

Some people are at a higher risk for getting hepatitis A, including:

-People who are living with or caring for a person who already has hepatitis A

-People living homeless, especially those living unsheltered without good access to sanitation, hygiene and handwashing facilities

-People who have sex with someone who has hepatitis A

-Men who have sex with men

-Illicit drug users (does not have to be injection drugs)

-International travelers

-People with clotting disorders like hemophilia

-People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C are at increased risk for severe infections.

The Central District Health Department, along with state public health, has been investigating a hepatitis A outbreak that began emerging in early 2019. Since January 1, 2019, 67 cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed in Idaho, with cases limited to the state’s southern counties. In 2018, only eight cases of hepatitis A were reported in Idaho; one of those cases was in Ada County.

On Wednesday, Black Bear Diner was notified that an employee of its State Street diner was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

The diagnosis was immediately reported to the Central District Health Department. The diner was inspected by CDH and declared safe; however, out of an abundance of caution and concern, Black Bear Diner will be immediately vaccinating all local staff for hepatitis A.

Black Bear Diner takes the health and safety of its guests and team members seriously, and maintains stringent procedures to ensure safe, sanitary and well-maintained diners. Black Bear Diner has received no other reports of employee and/or guest illness and the diner remains fully operational.