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Hepatitis in the Hamptons: Diners at The Driver's Seat May Have Been Exposed

Sep 3, 2013

Free preventative treatment is being offered by the Suffolk County health department following publication of reports that a Southampton restaurant worker had been diagnosed with hepatitis A.

The free treatment is being offered to consumers who dined at The Driver’s Seat Restaurant at 62 Jobs Lane in Southampton from August 16th through August 20th, according to Newsday. The Department of Health Services has confirmed that it is investigating the hepatitis A case.

Officials noted that preventative treatment, if received within two weeks of exposure, can either prevent or minimize the seriousness of the illness, Newsday wrote. Treatment involves either a vaccination or doses of immune globulin and is not recommended for people who might have been exposed to the virus prior to August 16th, according to Newsday. The department said that people exposed before August 16th "should be aware of the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A and contact their health care provider if they become ill."

Pregnant women are also urged to speak with their doctors if they believe they were exposed. People who have already received recent, prior treatment for hepatitis A or who have been previously diagnosed with the disease do not require treatment, according to Newsday.

Hepatitis A is contagious liver disease that involves inflammation of the liver caused by a virus spread by ingesting food or drink that was handled by someone stricken with a virus. Fecal matter is also a transmission route for hepatitis A.

The virus can range in severity from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a serious infection that can last for several months. People usually become ill between 15 and 50 days after exposure and symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), poor appetite, abnormal liver tests, dark urine, and pale stool. Rarely, and particularly in people with a pre-existing severe illness or who are immune compromised, hepatitis A infection can lead to liver failure. The health department hotline can be reached between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at 1-631-787-2200.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis A is caused by an infection with the hepatitis A virus, known as HAV, which replicates in the liver and is released in high concentrations in the feces between one and two weeks prior to symptom onset. About 10-15 percent of patients may experience a symptom relapse within the first six months following an acute illness.

Viral hepatitis is the number one cause of liver cancer and the most common reason patients require liver transplant. About 4.4 million Americans live with chronic hepatitis, but many do not know that they are infected, according to the CDC.

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