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Second Contoocook restaurant worker tests positive for hepatitis A

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 30. 2013 1:39PM

CONCORD – A second bartender at the Covered Bridge Restaurant in Contoocook tested positive for hepatitis A and state health officials estimate between 100 and 200 people might have been exposed to the contagious disease.

State Public Health Director Dr. Jose Montero said the bartender also worked a couple of private events and health officials are contacting everyone who attended them to make them aware of the situation.

As a result, the state Department of Public Health Services (DPHS) is offering hepatitis A vaccines or immune globulin to patrons who were at the restaurant on Aug. 20. The shots will be given at two clinics – today from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and again tomorrow from 9 a.m. to noon – at Bow High School, 32 White Rock Hill Road, Bow.

DPHS is working with the Capital Area Public Health Network to offer the vaccination clinics for anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.

"This case is linked to the previous food service worker (bartender)," said Dr. Jose Montero, New Hampshire's Public Health Director. "I want to assure everyone that all the necessary public health steps were taken to prevent any additional cases. I would like to once again remind everyone how important proper hygiene is in preventing illness especially in the food service industry. Once again, we do believe the risk of exposure is extremely low, but we are working to identify anyone who may be at risk so that they can receive prophylaxis."

So far, the health department has received no reports of a patron contracting hepatitis A, he said.

Earlier this month, 1,114 people received shots to ward off hepatitis A they might have acquired while eating or drinking between July 20 and Aug. 3 at the Covered Bridge Restaurant or the American Legion. A bartender who worked at both places tested positive for the contagious disease.

The Covered Bridge Restaurant at 16 Cedar St. remains open. Montero said the restaurant was inspected and no problems were found with it.

A man, who answered a telephone call to the restaurant Friday but refused to give his name, said it "was business as usual," that the hepatitis A cases really had nothing to do with the restaurant and that the two workers infected were roommates. But then he said the restaurant had decided not to make any comments to the media and he ended the conversation.

In the latest case, the bartender worked at the restaurant only two days – Aug. 13 and Aug. 20 – but Montero said a vaccine or immune globulin shot would be ineffective for anyone who was there on Aug. 13 because too much time has passed.

And, he said, for those individuals who cannot make the clinic or prefer to see their on doctors, Tuesday, Sept. 3 is the last day the treatment would be effective for anyone who was at the restaurant on Aug. 20.

Montero said health officials were not aware of the second case until recently because the incubation period for hepatitis A ranges from two weeks to 50 days. People who have hepatitis A may go to the doctor but still test negative for the disease because of the lengthy incubation period, he explained.

Health officials recommend any one who dined at the restaurant on Aug. 20 to have the vaccine or immune globulin. If you were previously vaccinated or had hepatitis A infection, you do not need a further vaccine.

Hepatitis A is a virus that causes liver disease which sometimes requires hospitalization. The virus is spread through fecal matter on unwashed hands that come in contact with the mouth. It can also be spread by sharing utensils or sexual contact.

Symptoms usually come on quickly and may include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes.) People who develop hepatitis A almost always recover from the illness without further complications.

There is no cure for hepatitis A, but there is a vaccine and immune globulin can help prevent someone who was exposed to it from getting sick if administered within two weeks of exposure. People who develop hepatitis A almost always recover from the illness without further complications, according to Montero.

Anyone up to the age of 40 can receive the vaccine. Immune globulin, an antibody preparation, is recommended for anyone over 40 or under 12 months.

Montero said the clinics were being held at Bow High School, instead of at Hopkinton High School, because of this weekend's Hopkinton Fair.

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