Washtenaw County Public Health officials confirmed this week that an employee at a local Ann Arbor restaurant has tested positive for hepatitis A. Customers who dined at Cardamom Restaurant in at 1739 Plymouth Road between September 16 and October 3 may have been exposed.
Hepatitis A is a contagious viral infection that can result in liver damage and other health issues. It’s transmitted through contaminated food and water as well as person-to-person contact.
The health department is encouraging anyone who visited the restaurant since September 16 to monitor for symptoms of infection and possibly contact their health provider for assessment for a vaccination or immune globulin (IG).
Symptoms generally appear two to six weeks after exposure and can last for several months. Signs of hepatitis A include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Infection can be prevented through vaccination if given within two weeks of exposure and most people who are infected make a full recovery and develop an immunity to the virus.
The employee diagnosed with hepatitis A is not currently working at the restaurant and is receiving medical care. County health officials are also working to vaccinate all of Cardamom’s employees. Customer’s are being asked not to contact the restaurant but to reach out to the county health department or a healthcare provider with questions.
“Vaccination is strongly encouraged for all eligible individuals, as multiple counties in southeast Michigan have seen outbreaks of hepatitis A in recent months,” Washtenaw County medical director Jessie Kimbrough Marshall says in a statement.
Since August 2016, Southeast Michigan has experienced a six-fold increase in hepatitis A infections with 341 documented cases. According to a fact sheet by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “transmission appears to be through direct person-to-person spread and illicit drug use.” Drug users, homeless and transient communities, and incarcerated individuals appear to be at a greater risk of infection. So far, the case at Cardamom Restaurant has not been tied to the outbreak, according to county health officials.
As long as workers follow standard food safety protocols, transmission of the hepatitis A in the food service industry is relatively rare. Frequent hand-washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom and before handling food can help prevent the spread of the virus. Properly cooking foods and freezing can also help prevent infection.
Still, outbreaks have been tied to restaurants in the past. Last year, more than 150 people were infected with the virus and dozens hospitalized after eating raw scallops at a chain of sushi restaurants in Hawaii called Genki Sushi.