Hepatitis outbreak at Square restaurant

UPDATE – The city Department of Health has extended its free vaccinations for a third day today after four customers and a worker at the New Hawaii Sea Restaurant in Westchester Square have come down with Hepatitis A.

It called on customers who either ate there or ordered takeout food from the restaurant at 1475 Williamsbridge Road between Sept. 7 to Sept. 19th to get a Hepatitis A vaccine shot. Any leftover food from the restaurant should also be discarded, it said.

Hundreds of people lined up outside Lehman High School where the department set up an emergency clinic, giving free vaccinations on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21-22.

Because of the large turnout, it scheduled additional hours today, Monday, Sept. 23, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“We are asking all restaurant patrons and employees to get this vaccination as soon as possible,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “If people experience symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately. This incident serves as an important reminder to always wash your hands thoroughly before handling food to prevent the spread of disease.”

The department was notified of the case on Sept. 19, began the investigation, and inspected the restaurant that day, it said. An average of 50-60 cases of hepatitis A are reported to the Health Department in New York City each year, with 1-2 occurring in food handlers.

Hepatitis A is spread by eating food (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with traces of fecal matter from an infected person.

Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.

People typically develop symptoms of hepatitis A infection about one month (range is 15 to 50 days) after they are exposed to the liver virus. If people are vaccinated within 14 days of exposure, vaccination can prevent the disease from occurring.

There are no special medicines or antibiotics to treat a person once the symptoms appear.

While some people who have chronic liver disease or a weakened immune system could experience more severe illness and require hospitalization, hepatitis A is rarely fatal (fewer than 1% of cases).

Health officials said they are working with the restaurant to ensure that all the food handlers are vaccinated. The restaurant is cooperating fully with the Health Department and will remain closed until enough employees are vaccinated to reopen safely.

Women who are pregnant will not be treated at the site and should consult their doctor as far as potential vaccination. People with immune-compromising conditions should consult their doctor to discuss whether to receive vaccine or a different preventive treatment.

People who were exposed but have already received two doses of hepatitis A vaccine sometime in their life do not need another shot; all others should be vaccinated.

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