Ministry of Health officials say a kitchen worker at Duval may have exposed customers
SARASOTA – At least 30 people have been vaccinated against hepatitis A after a Duval restaurant food service employee tested positive for highly contagious liver disease.
The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County has stated that the employee, a part-time dishwasher at the seafood restaurant located at 1435 Main St., had perhaps exposed people who had eaten or drunk at the restaurant between April 26th and May 10th.
"We consider that it is a relatively low risk, but we strongly invite those who visited the restaurant during this period and who had never been vaccinated against it before." Hepatitis A to get vaccinated, "said DOH spokesman, G. Steve Haurd.
Hepatitis A is in the stool of people infected with the virus. With inadequate hygiene, the virus can be spread through contact with infected people, objects, foods and beverages, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Duval co-owner Jim Abrams said customer traffic and bookings were down since the announcement of the new Friday afternoon.
Shortly after the employee tested positive for the virus, the restaurant vaccinated all of its staff against the hepatitis A virus. The restaurant will make the vaccine mandatory for all new employees said Abrams.
"We value the health, safety and well-being of our employees and customers. We have already taken action and are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again, "said Abrams, who said the restaurant had thoroughly cleaned the kitchen and the dining room.
Haurd confirmed that Duval's inspection was successful and that its operation was safe.
DOH Sarasota offers free hepatitis A vaccine at its vaccination clinics in Sarasota and North Port. The Sarasota office at 2200 Ringling Blvd. will be open on Sundays from 9 to 11 am to administer the vaccines, said Haurd.
The vaccine against hepatitis A, given as two injections at six months apart, may confer protection against the disease if administered within two weeks of exposure.
Symptoms include sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, pale white stools and yellow skin and eyes. Anyone with these symptoms should immediately see a doctor.
Duval's affected customers can call DOH Sarasota at 941-861-2900 for information on hepatitis A or to receive a vaccine.