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Another Hepatitis A scare at a Franklin County restaurant

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Mo. - Health officials are addressing another Hepatitis A scare in Franklin County after a restaurant employee tested positive for the infection. The Franklin County Health Department is offering free vaccines to people who may have been exposed.

Vaccines are available Thursday, July 11 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the health department (414 East Main Street) in Union for patrons of Roadhouse 100 (2763 MO-100) in Gray Summit who consumed food or drinks between June 23 and July 5.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. It can cause nausea, fever, and stomach pain. People can become ill up to 7 weeks after being exposed to the virus.

Health officials said those infected often also live a high-risk lifestyle involving homelessness and intravenous drug use. They said it is uncommon for someone to become infected because of an infected food handler, but a vaccine is being offered as a precaution.

Roadhouse 100 remains open for business. An employee said they have no comment but added Hepatitis A is a growing problem in Franklin County beyond just a few restaurants.

Tim Brinker, Presiding Commissioner of Franklin County, said there have been 45 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A in Franklin County this year. There had only been one case in the previous decade, according to Brinker.

Last month, customers of Jack in the Box in Union were encouraged to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A after an employee tested positive. Brinker said, to the best of his knowledge, the health department has not identified anyone who may have contracted Hepatitis A from dining at either restaurant.

Brinker said the county health department has administered 1,500 Hepatitis A vaccinations this year. One hundred were administered Wednesday (July 10) during the first day of the mass vaccination clinic associated with this confirmed case, he said.

"The best thing you can do for yourself, your loved ones, your friends, and visitors that may come and go is keep good hygiene," Brinker said.

Brinker is hoping to go one step further though. Next week, he will propose a commission order to make it mandatory for food service employees to be vaccinated for Hepatitis A.

Brinker said he wants to ensure the move does not hurt the county's small businesses, so they will consider incentives and other programs to encourage participation.

"The battle we have in the life of representation is that it's going to affect small businesses," he said. "There's thousands of employees that you're talking about here that at a cost of $100-$110 per employee, that's going to be on those small businesses. So that's the struggle, but you weigh it and you go, 'You know what, the health risk is great enough to where we must administer this. If not, then we're stuck with potential disaster beyond what we have.'"

Brinker said he hopes the commission will move quickly on this order and it is decided within the next two weeks.

For any questions or to schedule an appointment, contact the Franklin County Health Department at 636-583-7300. For further information about Hepatitis A, visit health.mo.gov.

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