Health & Fitness

Midlands restaurant is latest in SC to expose customers to hepatitis, officials say

For the seventh time in less than two months, customers who recently dined at a South Carolina restaurant might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus, health officials said Monday.

People who dined at the Huddle House on West Dekalb Street in Kershaw County could have been exposed to the virus after an employee tested positive for hepatitis A, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said in a news release.

The restaurant is in a busy retail business area in downtown Camden.

Anyone who ate at the fast-food restaurant between June 14 and June 28 “might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus,” according to the news release.

DHEC said it learned an employee tested positive for hepatitis A on June 28 and began investigating possible exposures. Health officials said the “illness is not a foodborne outbreak,” according to the news release.

“The concern is not the restaurant. It is with a food handler who has hepatitis A infection, and they can spread the virus up to two weeks before they know they are sick,” DHEC said in the news release. “The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low.”

Huddle House received an A rating from DHEC the last time it was inspected, on Aug. 16, 2018, according to the news release.

This is the seventh time since late May that DHEC has reported customers might have been exposed to hepatitis A after dining at a restaurant where an employee tested positive for the virus.

On May 21, DHEC said people who ate at the Lexington County Wild Wing Cafe location could have been exposed to hepatitis A, The State reported.

DHEC said on May 30 that those who dined at Teriyaki Japan in North Augusta were also exposed to the virus, according to The State.

On June 3, diners at the Zaxby’s in a North Charleston outlet mall complex might have been exposed to the virus, The State reported.

Two restaurants, a Popeyes in Aiken and the Harbour Town Yacht Club in Hilton Head, were reported on June 18 by DHEC for having employees that tested positive for hepatitis A.

Again on June 24, DHEC said an employee at the Hardee’s on Killian Road in Richland County tested positive for hepatitis A, potentially exposing customers to the virus.

Symptoms of infection include “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin,” and those suffering from the virus “usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed,” DHEC said in the release.

For those who have not already been vaccinated, it should be considered for anyone potentially exposed “within two weeks from their date of consuming anything from the restaurant,” DHEC said in the news release.

DHEC recommends anyone who ate at the restaurant during the exposure timeframe should contact a doctor or pharmacy about treatment.

According to DHEC, “hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage.”

DHEC declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak on May 13, based on a steady increase in the number of cases, as 172 cases have been reported since November.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.