Single case of Hepatitis A identified in Washington County

ST. GEORGE – The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has received confirmation that a food handler working at a restaurant in Washington County has tested positive for Hepatitis A.

The health department is seeking to identify customers who ate at the The Pizza Factory at Ancestor Square  during the following times:

  • July 19 – Friday:   6-9:30 p.m.
  • July 20 – Saturday:  6-9:30 p.m.
  • July 23 – Tuesday: 5-9:00 p.m.
  • July 26 – Friday:  6-9:30 p.m.
  • July 27 – Saturday:  5-9:30 p.m.

“They’re pretty limited blocks of time,” said David Heaton, public information officer for the health department. Still, the department is working to get the word out to the public concerning the matter.

People who ate at this location during those times may have been exposed to Hepatitis A and should contact the health department or their healthcare provider for preventive treatment, which could include vaccination and/or immunoglobulin injections, depending on age.

People who didn’t eat at the restaurant during the listed times don’t need preventive treatment, Heaton said. Also, anyone previously vaccinated for Hepatitis A is protected from infection.

If you think you may have contracted Hepatitis A, or have eaten at the Pizza Factory during the listed times above, call the Southwest Utah Public Health Department at 435-673-3528 or come in person to 620 South 400 East (level 3) in St. George.

The immunization clinic is open at the following times on a walk-in basis:

  • Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Every other Friday starting Aug. 2: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Please bring your immunization records, picture ID, and insurance card. The SWUPHD offers the Hepatitis A vaccine for $48 if not covered by insurance.

The Pizza Factory owner Dave Randall, said the company is offering to reimburse individuals who may lack insurance to cover the shots. People who ate at The Pizza Factory are asked to go to the health department for the shot first, then go to the restaurant with a receipt or credit card slip showing they were at the restaurant during the times of possible exposure.

For people who don’t keep receipts, Randall said they can still come in and employees will go back through their sales records in order to match food orders made by patrons.

Hepatitis A

It takes about two weeks for the systems of Hepatitis A to manifest, the health department’s health director, Dr. David Blodgett, said.

Symptoms include: jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and fever. Contact your doctor or health care provider if you experience these symptoms.

Without treatment the illness can “last between 15 and 50 days,” Blodgett said. “Its not a chronic disease.” People feel horrible, “then they’ll recover,” he said.

The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. Thorough hand-washing can help stop the spread of Hepatitis A, along with staying home if you are sick.

Hepatitis A shouldn’t be confused with Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, which can be lifelong and potentially fatal illnesses, Blodgett said. “It’s a long-term disease.”

The infected food handler

The Pizza Factory had no way of knowing the food handler was sick while he was working, Randall said. “The young man showed no signs of being sick,” he said.

It’s company policy that if a worker is sick, they stay home, Randall said.

The food handler “was ill and did not know” he or she was infected with Hepatitis A, Heaton said. This was only discovered after the individual went to the doctor and was diagnosed. “After that things moved pretty fast,” he said. Family members and fellow workers were treated for the disease.

Speculation has been raised over social media that the food handler was fired, this is not the case. There was no apparent negligence or malicious intent on the part of the food handler, Heaton said. As well, his food handling permit was not revoked due to the incident.

The food handler was not fired, Randall said, but had actually quit in order to prepare to serve an LDS mission. That mission, Randall noted, has now been delayed to the young man have contracted Hepatitis A.

The Pizza Factory at Ancestor Square

No other Pizza Factory restaurants are affected by this Hepatitis-A exposure and there are no other confirmed Hepatitis-A cases related to the Ancestor Square Pizza Factory, which remains open for business.

As the food handler worked in the The Pizza Factory exclusively, The Pasta Factory portion of the business was not exposed.

Heaton said he had reviewed the health inspection records for the Ancestor Square location. “They came close to a 100 percent rating,” he said. “They have a very good reputation.”

The restaurant management is cooperating fully with the investigation.

Ed. Note: This story was updated at 11:55 a.m., Monday, Aug. 5, 2013.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2013, all rights reserved

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9 Comments

  • Delene August 2, 2013 at 10:05 am

    What about the Pasta Factory? We were there during those times.

    • Mori Kessler Mori Kessler August 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      We confirmed with the health department that the food handler worked exclusively in the Pizza Factory portion of the restaurant. Pasta Factory customers were not exposed.

  • AD August 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Why are the people infected there responsible for the cost of the immunization/treatment?? That is complete BS!! Sure, they had no way to know that their employee was infected, but their restaurant is still responsible for it being spread throughout the community and should look out for its patrons. I used to go to one or another of the Pizza Factory’s about once a week, but I will never return to any of their locations after finding out that there stand on this is basically, “Here, we gave you this…hope you can afford to cure it.” That includes the Pasta Factory.

  • Deke August 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    when this happened to me at a well known restaurant chain in San Diego, the restaurant paid for the vaccine … because if they hadn’t, they would’ve been boycotted and put out of business … which is what should happen to the PIzza Factory here. doesn’t matter what their health ratings are, the fact is an employee of theirs exposed many diners to Hep A. certainly the restaurant’s insurance covers employee liability. if Pizza Factory doesn’t step forward and cover the cost, I will never eat there again and neither should anyone who cares about their health.

  • AM August 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Im a little confused by the comments. Nowhere in the news story does it discuss Pizza Factory’s “stand on this”. Before boycotting a great and important St. George business, i would suggest contacting Pizza Factory and asking them what they are doing for those patrons POTENTIALLY exposed to the virus.

    • Mori Kessler Mori Kessler August 5, 2013 at 11:59 am

      The Pizza Factory’s owner said the company is reimbursing individuals for the costs of the shots if they are not covered by insurance. This article has been updated to reflect that response.

  • justaguy August 2, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    @AM It does say that the vaccination is $48 if your insurance doesn’t cover it. The story does not say that Pizza Factory will cover the cost, which would be the right thing to do.

  • AM August 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    @Justaguy..Its clear from the story that the reporter did not speak with a Pizza Factory representative and only spoke with the SWUPHD. My point is that before people jump to conclusions and publicly slam the business they should get all the facts.

  • justaguy August 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Still no response to @AM’s question about Pizza Factory’s side by STGNews.

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