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Thousands may have been exposed to hepatitis A at Missouri restaurant

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SPRINGFIELD, MO -- As many as 5,000 people may have passed recently through a Missouri restaurant where an employee with hepatitis A worked while possibly contagious, health officials said Wednesday.

Red Robin said the employee last worked on May 16 and that the restaurant has been deemed safe after an inspection by the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

The New Jersey-based restaurant chain didn't say in what area of the restaurant the employee worked but told diners who ate there between May 8 and 16 to call the health department for information about what to do next.

"It scared me because my husband has been sick," Andrea Hall, a Red Robin customer, told CNN affiliate KOLR. "And a lot of his symptoms of his matched. A red flag just went off and I was like what do I do from here."

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water, or by someone who's infected, according to the Mayo Clinic. Frequent handwashing is recommended to limit the spread.

The highly contagious infection inflames the liver, limiting its ability to function.

While mild cases don't require treatment and the Mayo Clinic says most of those infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage, severe cases can lead to liver failure and death, according to the World Health Organization.

Health officials in Springfield said symptoms include fever, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine and clay-colored bowel movements.

Vaccination center set up

All workers at the Red Robin have since been innoculated with a immune globulin prophylaxis shot, the restaurant chain said.

The health department will run a two-day vaccination clinic at Remington's, a venue that hosts concerts and trade shows. On its Facebook page, the entertainment complex said 4,000 doses of a vaccine were being shipped there.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incubation period for hepatitis A is between 15 and 50 days. The CDC says on its website that immune globulin offers protection for about three months for people who get the shot pre- or post-exposure. But the shot needs to be given within two weeks of exposure for maximum protection.

Many people already have been given a two-step vaccine, which was introduced in the United States in 1995. The CDC estimates that 17,000 people contract hepatitis A each year.

Affiliate KYTV reported that thousands more customers might have been exposed to the virus because the infected employee worked for Red Robin for several months.

They should watch for symptoms, the station said.

By Matthew Stucker and Steve Almasy

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

13 comments

  • Liz

    This article doesn’t specify the address of the restaurant. Isn’t that the first thing you should have included in your report? A critical oversight, or a sensational troll for feedback comments?
    Either way, a waste of time to read about thousands who might have been exposed without specific details.

  • Daniel

    (1) This article was not written by Fox2 – it’s off the CNN wire;
    (2) Since there is only one Red Robin in Springfield, I think it would be relatively easy for you to locate the address if you’re that concerned.

    • Andrew

      Actually, theres two locations, one near battlefield mall and the other on south glenstone. The Hep A outbreak occurred at the south glenstone location. Source: I live in Springfield.

  • Steven Sweeney

    Awesome! I despise red robin! I went to meet a friend there once, and while smoking in my car, they told me to put it out since it was a “smoke free” property.Told them to choke on it and we then went to buffalo wild wings.Funny how fascist red robin could scour the lot for smokers, but not notice kitchen staff spreading hep.When these fascist dumps close down, I will be so happy I will smoke a cigarette afterwards.

    • Dale

      I know! In your own car and outside. I would have told them the same thing and probably would have lit another. Anti smokers are pushing it. They are harmed more by the car exhaust than you smoking. Red Robins food has got worse and worse. Bacon half fried! I don’t go there anymore.

  • Ken

    Can’t help but wonder how many of those 5,000 were travelers passing through that will never know how they got sick. Terrible management at Red Robin and what a horrible, irresponsible employee to come to work with this.
    I’ll bet they still sent the money south to the family

  • Monty

    Please hire competent news writers. The information is not useful if it cannot clearly be understood. I am sick of this.

  • Lisa

    At the beginning of the story it says SPRINGFIELD, MO. Later in the story it says Springfield Illinois…which is it?

  • Chris

    I’m not sure why alot of you are complaining. I completely understand what the article is saying and I. Know where this restaurant is because I live in the area. If you don’t know where it is then obviously you weren’t here during that timeframe so you’re safe. There’s only 1 Red Robin…get your GPS and it will show you exactly where it is……even if you live nowhere around here but are still complaining for some reason

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