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Hepatitis A Found In Second Local Restaurant Worker

Alan Diaz

A Clermont County fast food restaurant employee has been diagnosed with hepatitis A.

Public Health officials say the person worked at the Taco Bell on State Route 28 in Miami Township, and that the risk to customers is low. Still, they advise anyone who ate there between August 15 and 17 to watch for symptoms.

Those include stomach pain, nausea, jaundice, and low appetite. A press release says vaccines are still effective within two weeks after infection. The Ohio Department of Health declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in June -- to date there have been 256 cases.

Taco Bell released a statement Thursday afternoon. "The team member in question is on leave and won’t return to work until cleared by medical professionals.  All team members currently working at this restaurant will be offered vaccinations and the restaurant will be thoroughly sanitized.  Ensuring the health and wellbeing of our team members and our customers is our highest priority."

Hamilton County Justice Center started vaccinating inmates for Hepatitis A earlier this month, following four positive cases. The Health Department says hepatitis A can spread through close personal contact.

Hepatitis A also continues to spread throughout Northern Kentucky despite efforts to stop it. In a normal year, there are between zero and two cases in the state. Since January 2018, 64 cases of hepatitis A have been reported. Five of those were reported in the last week.

There were no cases of hepatitis A among Northern Kentucky residents last year.

The liver disease was diagnosed in an employee who handled food at the Newport Syndicate earlier this month. The Northern Kentucky Health Department says the employee worked while ill or infectious, including the dates of July 25 through August 11.

District Director at Northern Kentucky Health, Lynne Saddler, says prevention is the best way to reduce the spread of the disease.

"Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person," a press release from NKY Health says. "The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase the risk of infection. Consistent and careful hand washing, including under the fingernails, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, along with vaccination of anyone at risk of infection, will help prevent the spread of this disease."

The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in November 2017. Since then, there have been 1,425 cases reported.

This story was updated to include a response from Taco Bell.

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.