NEWPORT, Ky. -- For the first time since Kentucky declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak last November, Northern Kentucky is now under outbreak status for the virus as well.
There have been 56 cases so far. One case in particular has officials especially concerned as it involves a food worker.
An investigation by the Northern Kentucky Health Department revealed an employee at the Newport Syndicate was handling food from July 25 and Aug. 11, 2018, when the employee was ill or infectious.
Management with the Newport Syndicate is cooperating with the department's investigation, and they have disinfected all surfaces which may have been contaminated. All employees have been advised to receive the hepatitis A vaccine and hygiene practices have been reinforced.
"We went immediately into full force action ... We still wanted to make sure all guests that come into this building feel safe, and we've done everything we can do," said Newport Syndicate general manager Betsi Rutkowski.
The department says it is uncommon to contract hepatitis A from a restaurant employee, but it still advises people who ate at the Newport Syndicate in that timeframe to get a hepatitis A vaccine.
A hepatitis A vaccine is effective against the virus if it is received within two weeks of possibly contracting the virus. Even if it is after the two week window, the department still recommends receiving the vaccine for future protection.
People who ate at the Newport Syndicate within that period should also monitor their health for hepatitis A symptoms for 50 days and wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
“Hepatitis A infection can be prevented through vaccination and frequent, proper hand washing," said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health at NKY Health. "With the outbreak occurring, we are strongly encouraging the vaccine for all adults."