Second Hepatitis A exposure in Aiken in two weeks raises alarm

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Wednesday, February 14th, 2019 / News 12 at 11 o'clock

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - DHEC is calling it a Hepatitis A outbreak in Aiken County after another employee from another restaurant tests positive for the virus.

It's the second time in two weeks people eating out in Aiken may have been exposed to the virus. The first one involved the Aiken Brewing Company. This one involves the City Billiards restaurant just up the road.

Testing for the illness begins Thursday at the Aiken County Health Department located at 222 Beaufort St. NE in Aiken:

Thursday, February 14, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Friday, February 15, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturday, February 16, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

South Carolina as a whole has had a rise in hep-a recently, but neighbors here are surprised, and a little alarmed, at two cases of hepatitis in their town.

Lawrence Cauble was eating out in The Alley tonight when he heard the news.

"I haven't been over to City Billiards in a long time. But they have a reputation for having really good food there," Cauble told News 12.

DHEC says an employee working at City Billiards tested positive for hepatitis A Tuesday. Anyone who has eaten there between January 22 and February 5 could be at risk of exposure.

"It is scary because I eat a lot of my meals out, and you count on the restaurant to take responsibility for having good quality people there," said Cauble.

This is the second case of hepatitis A diagnosed in an Aiken restaurant employee in the month of February. But more importantly, it is the 10th hepatitis A case diagnosed since December 1 in Aiken County.

DHEC has officially declared an outbreak.

"You know, it costs a lot of money to go out and eat, you don't want to also have to risk infection," Cauble said.

DHEC says at both the Brewing Company and now City Billiards, the primary issue is not the food or the restaurant itself, but someone who is either distributing or handling the food.

Cauble says, if it was him, he'd immediately seek help.

"If I had eaten in there, I would definitely go and get a vaccine," he said.

DHEC will be offering vaccinations for anyone who thinks they could have been exposed at the restaurant. Those will given out free of charge on Beaufort Street starting tomorrow through Saturday.

"I think they should definitely be aware and cognizant of it. They should watch for it," Cauble said.

The department says the vaccine is only effective at preventing hepatitis a up to two weeks after exposure.

So--if you ate at City Billiards between January 22nd and 30th, you need to closely monitor yourself and be aware of the symptoms; the vaccine will not help you at this point.

DHEC will have representatives in Aiken tomorrow to answer some questions.