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Cheesecake Factory in Arizona May have Exposed Diners to Hepatitis A

Jul 30, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

Patrons of a Biltmore, Arizona Cheesecake Factory Restaurant may have been exposed to Hepatitis A, a potentially dangerous food borne infection.  Last week,  the Maricopa County Health Department announced that a worker at the restaurant had tested positive for the disease, and there is a chance that Hepatitis A could have been transmitted to some customers who ate at the Cheesecake Factory on July 20. So far, no other cases of Hepatitis A have been reported, and health officials in Arizona believe that the chance of transmission is low.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection.  The virus is found in the stool of infected people, and can be spread if they do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.  Symptoms of Hepatitis A include low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, yellowing of the skin, dark brown urine, loss of appetite and fatigue.  Symptoms of Hepatitis A can last from two to nine months.  Most people who contract Hepatitis A make a full recovery, however, in some rare instances the disease can progress to the point of causing liver failure or even death.

Once someone has been infected with Hepatitis A, there is no real treatment.  Usually, bed rest is prescribed, and efforts are made to make the patient’s symptoms more tolerable until the disease runs its course.  In some instances, a patient will be hospitalized to treat dehydration or liver problems.   Sometimes patients with a severe case of Hepatitis A will require a liver transplant.  

Immune globulin (IG), a preparation of antibodies can prevent Hepatitis A if it is administered within two weeks of exposure.  The Maricopa County Health Department is offering IG injections to anyone who ate at the Biltmore Cheesecake Factory on July 20.  The vaccinations will be available at the Maricopa County Public Health Clinic on July 30 and 31.  Anyone with questions can call the Health Clinic at 602-747-7500.

Outbreaks of Hepatitis A have been linked to popular restaurants in the past.  The largest Hepatitis A outbreak in US history occurred in Pennsylvania in 2005.  More than 500 people contracted Hepatitis A, and three died after eating at a Chi-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant.  That outbreak was linked to tainted green onions. Generally restaurant-related outbreaks of Hepatitis A infect between 25 and 200 people.


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