Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019
Possible Exposure: City Billiards, Aiken County
DHEC was notified on February 12, 2019, that an employee of City Billiards tested positive for hepatitis A. Customers who ate there between January 22 and February 5 could have been exposed to the virus. DHEC is working with City Billiards to investigate possible exposures and have arranged preventive vaccination for anyone who may be affected.
In light of these findings, DHEC is declaring a hepatitis A outbreak in Aiken County. An outbreak is defined as an unexpected increase in the number of cases in a geographic area or time period. There have been 10 hepatitis A cases diagnosed in Aiken County since December 1, 2018.
This is the second case of hepatitis A diagnosed in an Aiken-area food handler in February. At this time, DHEC is not aware of a known connection between the two cases.
It is important to note that these cases are not a food-related outbreak. In this case, as well as the case reported on February 4, 2019, DHEC State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell says, “The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low. The concern is with a food handler with hepatitis A infection, not the restaurant.”
As a precaution, in these situations, vaccination is recommended for individuals who were exposed during the time the food handler was contagious.
Post-exposure vaccination is recommended for individuals who have not been previously vaccinated if it can be administered less than two weeks from their date of consuming anything from the restaurant, with the last date of exposure being February 5, 2019. DHEC will offer no-cost hepatitis A vaccines to individuals who may have been exposed as a precaution.
Customers and staff who ate food prepared at the restaurant from January 31 - February 5 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider, or come to the Aiken County Health Department located at 222 Beaufort St. NE in Aiken for post-exposure treatment on the following date and times:
- 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.
The vaccine is not shown to prevent infection when administered more than 14 days after a specific exposure. However, vaccination more than 14 days after exposure will give long-lasting protection from infection from future exposures.
As of today, customers and staff who ate at the restaurant between January 22 – January 30 are not likely to benefit from post-exposure vaccination. Anyone who ate at the restaurant between these dates should be aware of the symptoms of infection. Testing for hepatitis A is not recommended unless individuals develop symptoms. It is important to seek medical care if symptoms develop.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. People usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms of infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Certain individuals are at greater risk for severe hepatitis A infection and are encouraged to seek vaccination. Those individuals include anyone with a weakened immune system, liver disease (such as hepatitis B or C) or anyone who abuses injection or non-injection drugs.
If patrons of the restaurant have questions or concerns, they may contact DHEC’s Careline at 1-855-4SC-DHEC (1-855-472-3432). from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m on Thursday, February 14, and Friday, February 15, and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturday, February 16 from and from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, February 18 to answer your questions.. For more information on hepatitis A, visit the DHEC website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Talk to your medical provider about the hepatitis A vaccine. In South Carolina, adults 18 years and older can get vaccinated at some local pharmacies without a prescription, depending on your insurance coverage. To search for a nearby pharmacy that offers vaccines, visit www.vaccinefinder.org.
DHEC’s local health departments also provide hepatitis A vaccines. DHEC has an Adult Vaccine Program that provides low-cost vaccines for uninsured or underinsured individuals who are 19 years and older.
DHEC’s local health departments are currently providing no-cost hepatitis A vaccines to individuals in at-risk groups (drug users, homeless, recently incarcerated, and men who have sex with men).
- Hilton Head & Aiken June 18, 2019: Hepatitis A - Possible Restaurant Exposure
- Charleston County June 3, 2019: Hepatitis A - Possible Restaurant Exposure
- North Augusta May 30, 2019: Hepatitis A - Possible Restaurant Exposure
- Columbia May 21, 2019: Hepatitis A - Possible Restaurant Exposure
- Aiken Feb. 13, 2019: Hepatitis A - Possible Restaurant Exposure
- Aiken Feb. 4, 2019: Hepatitis A - Possible Restaurant Exposure
For more information on hepatitis A, visit the DHEC website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.