Health department says St. George pizza restaurant employee had hepatitis

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1 2013 5:23 p.m. MDT

ST. GEORGE — Health officials say a pizza restaurant employee was discovered to have hepatitis A, and they're asking anyone who ate there while he was working to contact them for preventive treatment.

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department is reaching out to anyone who ate at Ancestor Square Pizza Factory, 2 W. St. George Blvd., during the shifts the employee was working — 6-9:30 p.m. July 19-20, 5-9 p.m. July 23, 6-9:30 p.m. July 26 and 5-9:30 p.m. July 27.

Anyone who may have been exposed can receive a vaccination or immune globulin and is encouraged to contact the health department or a physician, said Dave Heaton, health department spokesman. Anyone previously vaccinated for hepatitis A is protected from infection.

"It goes a long way in preventing them actually contracting hepatitis A," Heaton said.

Pizza Factory owner Bill Randall identified the infected worker as a young man who worked as a cook and was a "great employee." The young man recently stopped working at the restaurant for an unrelated reason.

Randall said the employee never showed any symptoms while he was at the restaurant and began feeling ill the day after he stopped working.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Randall said. "It's not something we had any control over, other than we have specific health and sanitation rules here. When kids come to work, they're supposed to wash their hands. And we have hand sanitizer stations everywhere in the restaurant."

The company will now require all employees to be vaccinated for hepatitis before they begin work, he said.

Hepatitis A is the least serious form of hepatitis but is immediately reportable to the health department, Heaton said. Once the employee's test came back positive, health officials began working with the employee, his family members and restaurant staff.

It is still unknown how the employee contracted the virus, Heaton said.

Anyone who ate at the restaurant can contact the Southwest Utah Public Health Department at 435-673-3528 or in person to 620 S. 400 East. Individuals are asked to bring immunization records, a picture ID and proof of insurance.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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