BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - The Bartow County Health Department is warning people after a worker at a popular Mexican restaurant tested positive for hepatitis A.
It happened at a Willy's Mexicana Grill at Main Street Marketplace in Cartersville.
The health department is offering free hepatitis A immunizations and said anyone who ate there should get treated.
Anyone who ate at the restaurant between May 31 and June 17 could be at risk.
"We encourage any patron that was there between those certain dates to monitor for symptoms," Cathy Green, a registered nurse, said. "They're relatively low-risk."
A Willy's spokesperson said all employees at the Cartersville location will be vaccinated by the end of the week. The restaurant is also being thoroughly sanitized.
Hepatitis A is a rare viral infection that is easily spread through food and water and affects the liver. Symptoms include nausea, stomach pain and fever. The symptoms can last a couple of months but usually clear up.
The state declared an outbreak months ago and there were 300 reported cases. Forty percent of them have been in northwest Georgia.
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Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Nicole Carr talked to worried customers.
Kasi Flynn got vaccinated as soon as she found out about the infection Wednesday. Flynn said she and her co-workers often ate at the Cartersville restaurant.
"I'm really most concerned about it spreading to my family," Flynn said. "I've got a 4-year-old daughter, and I've got to get things handled."
Bartow County Health Department Officials told Carr they've seen a steady stream of people coming in to be vaccinated. The county is administering the vaccines for free.
Green said people began to be required to get vaccinated for hepatitis A in 2006, so many children have already had the vaccine.
If you think you have been exposed, health officials ask you to:
- Monitor your health for symptoms of hepatitis A infection up to 50 days after exposure.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
- Stay at home and contact your health care provider immediately if symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop.
- Get vaccinated if you feel you are at risk
The free hepatitis A immunization is available at the Bartow County Health Department, 100 Zena Drive in Cartersville.
Channel 2 Action News received this statement from Willy's:
"Our utmost priority is the health and safety of our guests and team members. We were recently informed that an employee at our Cartersville location has tested positive for Hepatitis A. That employee is now being medically treated and the entire restaurant is being thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. In addition, over 50% of our employees have been vaccinated and the rest will be vaccinated by end of week. We have had no other reports of any illnesses linked to this location. Hepatitis A is ongoing issue in Georgia and we will continue to monitor Health Department reports and guidance."
Customers told Carr that they were not notified by the restaurant about the infection.
Willy's officials would not tell Carr if employees who aren't yet vaccinated are continuing to work at the store. They also wouldn't comment on whether or not the restaurant ever closed for cleaning and what the sanitation process entailed.
Willy’s spokesperson has declined to answer follow-up questions, incl whether unvaccinated employees are still on the schedule , whether the restaurant notified customers ( a customer told us he had no idea of the Hep A warning ) and what is going into sanitation process @wsbtv 6 https://t.co/EKl2Klegrc— Nicole Carr (@NicoleCarrWSB) June 26, 2019
No other illnesses have been reported at the Cartersville location.