Food handler at Lubbock, TX restaurant tests positive for Hep A

If I was a restaurant operator or corporate food safety person I would always be worried about an employee with Hepatitis A. The virus can be shed for multiple days before symptoms show up; takes up to thirty days after exposure to cause illness; and, it doesn’t matter if the food handler was a superstar handwasher – there’s still going to be a line up of patrons outside getting vaccine or IGG shots. Bad news.
This week’s Hep A incident comes from a restaurant in Lubbock, TX —  Cheddar’s. KCBD reports that up to 7,700 patrons could have been exposed to the virus after a food handler was diagnosed with it earlier this week.

"We’ve been in contact with Cheddar’s and we wanted to let people know that they may have been exposed," Bridget Faulkenberry with the Health Department said. The employee who was diagnosed with Hepatitis A worked in the food prep area of the kitchen.  However, the Health Department says they don’t expect anyone to have contracted the virus. "Just because they ate at the restaurant doesn’t meant they’ll be sick," Faulkenberry said.

The City of Lubbock is advising anyone who ate at Cheddar’s, 4009 South Loop 289, between 8/31/11 through 9/8/11 that they may have been exposed to hepatitis A. An employee of the restaurant, who has not worked at the restaurant since September 8, has been diagnosed with the viral illness and may have passed the virus on to others.

The health department has already had 100 calls about the issue as of Wednesday morning.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.