DHEC: More than 700 people vaccinated after possible exposure to Hepatitis A at an Aiken restaurant

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Friday, Feb. 8, 2019

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- More than 700 people were vaccinated for Hepatitis A this week after DHEC warned of possible exposure at a popular Aiken restaurant, according to a DHEC spokesman.

The warning was sparked after DHEC learned a worker at the Aiken Brewing Company was diagnosed with Hepatitis A. DHEC says they learned of the worker's diagnosis from a health care provider.

DHEC opened Hepatitis A vaccination clinics at the Aiken County Health Department this week for people potentially exposed to the virus during the time period of January 21 through January 26, 2019.

During those vaccination clinics, a total of 772 Hepatitis A vaccines were administered, according to DHEC.

DHEC noted that this number only reflects the vaccines provided during those specific clinics at the Aiken County Health Department and does not include any vaccines that could have been administered by other facilities or providers to potentially exposed persons.

DHEC tells News 12 this is preliminary data and subject to change.

The Aiken Brewing Company scored an A health rating during both inspections in January. A DHEC spokesman says the exposure is because of one worker and not due to a problem with the restaurant itself.

Monday, Feb. 4, 2019
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

7:58 p.m.
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Aiken Brewing Company released a statement Monday about the possibility of customers getting exposed to Hepatitis A.

"At Aiken Brewing Company, our priority is our employee and customers, making sure that their experience with us is an amazing one, whether you come to work, enjoy our food and drinks or for fun with friends. Recently, you may have heard about an employee’s infection with Hepatitis A, as reported by SC-DHEC on 2/4/2019. This occurrence was unfortunate, but it is not outside the realm of possibility for any food and beverage company to have an employee diagnosed and treated for communicable diseases.

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease, but only through the transference of bodily fluids. “Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus,” said Dr. Linda Bell, MD and state epidemiologist. “The risk of the hepatitis, A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low.”

As soon as Aiken Brewing Company was notified by SC-DHEC officials, we took appropriate actions to contain and control any exposure to all employees and customers per SC-DHEC and the Department of Health guidance. The restaurant is aware of only one employee testing positive for Hepatitis A and we are working with SC-DHEC on making sure that all of our employees and patrons are safe and aware of the issue at hand.

The Aiken Brewing Company would like to encourage all patrons who have eaten at the restaurant between Jan. 11 & Jan 26th to seek vaccination with SC-DHEC. A no-cost hepatitis a vaccine will be provided by DEHEC to any and all potentially exposed persons to the virus as a precautionary measure. All current employees of The Aiken Brewing Company have been vaccinated as a requirement and precaution.

If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to Lannie Pruiett at 803-873-3603. We thank our loyal customers for their patronage, and hope to see you enjoying one of our local brews soon."

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) – Anyone who went to Aiken Brewing Company from January 11th and 26th may have been exposed to Hepatitis A, but the Department of Health and Environmental Control says the risk of actually catching the virus after going to the restaurant is low.

To be clear, the virus was not in the food or the beer at the restaurant. An employee tested positive last week.

Although the risk is minimal, we still saw people heading into Aiken’s health department to get checked out and vaccinated on Monday.

Health care worker Rebecca Ramirez was one of the people who spent her lunch break at the Aiken Health Department. She ate dinner at Aiken Brewing a couple of weeks ago.

“It was the Sadie Hawkins Dance in downtown Aiken,” Ramirez told us. “I had my son, his girlfriend, my 7-year-old and my husband.”

DHEC encourages anyone who ate at the restaurant from January 20th to the 26th to get a free vaccination at the Aiken Health Department. They say people who ate at the restaurant as early as the 11th of January should be on the lookout for symptoms.

Ramirez works in the dental field, so she wanted to get tested and vaccinated to keep her patients safe. She says she plans on eating at Aiken Brewing again.

"We just love the food there and my son would just die if I couldn't eat the cheese fries."

The clinic opens back up at 10:00 a.m. The owner of the restaurant says all their workers have now been vaccinated.

10:15 a.m.

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 has acquired the most recent health grades for the Aiken Brewing Company from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The last inspection was on January 17, 2019, and the restaurant and bar received a score of 99 out of 100. Just a week prior they scored a 96 with one violation.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect your liver's ability to function."

7:50 a.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is advising of possible exposure to Hepatitis A at local Aiken restaurant.

Customers who ate at the Aiken Brewing Company on Laurens Street SW in downtown Aiken might have been exposed to the virus.
DHEC was notified on Jan. 31, 2019 that an employee of the restaurant tested positive for Hepatitis A.

Customers who ate there between Jan. 11 and Jan. 26, 2019 could have been exposed to the virus. DHEC is working with the restaurant to investigate possible exposures and arrange preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.

Officials tell us the Aiken Brewing Company received an A rating from DHEC at their last inspection conducted on Jan. 9, 2019.

DHEC will offer no-cost Hepatitis A vaccine to individuals who may have been exposed as a precaution. Customers and staff who ate food prepared at the restaurant from Jan. 21 through Jan. 26, 2019 are encouraged to go to the Aiken County Health Department at 222 Beaufort St. NE in Aiken for post-exposure treatment on the following date and times:

Monday, February 4th, from 12-6 pm
Tuesday, February 5th, from 10 am - 7 pm
Wednesday, February 6th, from 10 am - 6 pm
Thursday, February 7th, from 10 am - 6 pm

Anyone who ate at the restaurant between these dates should watch for symptoms of infection, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin. People usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed to the virus.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. According to doctors, the risk of the Hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low. The illness is not a food borne outbreak.