DHEC: Possible Hepatitis A Exposures at Harbour Town Yacht Club in Hilton Head, Popeyes in Aiken Count
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 18, 2019
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Customers who ate at Harbour Town Yacht Club at 140 Lighthouse Road, Hilton Head Island, and Popeyes at 954 York St. NE, Aiken, might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.
Dr. Linda Bell, physician and state epidemiologist, said this is not a foodborne outbreak; the concern is with the food handlers who are infected and not with the yacht club or restaurant. The yacht club received an A rating from DHEC at the last inspection conducted March 8, 2019. The Popeyes restaurant received an A rating at the last inspection conducted on Jan. 8, 2019.
The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low, Dr. Bell said. “The real concern in South Carolina is the spread of hepatitis A among high-risk groups and people who live with and have close contact to a person with hepatitis A,” Dr. Bell said. “DHEC has been working to vaccinate and educate people in high-risk groups to prevent a widespread outbreak.”
Although the risk of exposure to customers is low at a restaurant, vaccination should be considered for individuals who were exposed during the time the food handler was contagious.
Harbour Town Yacht Club, Hilton Head
DHEC was notified on June 17, 2019, that an employee of the yacht club tested positive for hepatitis A. Guests who ate at three events at the yacht club could have been exposed. The events included a social on June 8, a dinner on June 13 and a wedding party on June 14. DHEC is working with Harbour Town to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.
Post-exposure vaccination should be considered for individuals who have not been vaccinated if it can be given within two weeks from their date of consuming anything from the establishment. People who ate food from the Harbour Town Yacht Club in Hilton Head on June 8, June 13 or June 14, 2019, may contact their medical provider or pharmacy about post exposure treatment. In South Carolina, adults 18 years and older can get vaccinated at some local pharmacies without a prescription, depending on your insurance coverage.
DHEC’s local health departments also provide hepatitis A vaccines. Individuals can schedule an appointment for vaccination at their local health department by calling 855-472-3432.
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 future exposures. Those who attended the June 8 event at the yacht club who
would like to consider vaccination have until June 22 to do so. Those who attended the June 13 have until June 27. Those who attended the June 14 event have until June 28.
DHEC was notified on June 17, 2019, that an employee of the restaurant tested positive for hepatitis A. Customers who ate there between May 29 and June 12, 2019, could have been exposed to the virus. DHEC is working with Popeyes to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.
People who ate food from the Popeyes between June 4 and June 12, 2019, may contact their medical provider or pharmacy about post exposure treatment.
Restaurant patrons who were potentially exposed also can visit the Aiken County Health Department located at 222 Beaufort St. NE in Aiken from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday (June 19), Thursday (June 20), and Friday (June 21). No appointments are necessary.
As of today, customers and staff who ate at the restaurant between May 29 and June 3 are not likely to benefit from post-exposure treatment. Anyone who ate at the restaurant between these dates should watch for symptoms of infection, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin. People usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed to the virus. Seek medical care if symptoms develop.
DHEC declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak on May 13, 2019, based on a steady increase in cases. Between Nov. 1, 2018, and June 14, 2019, 147 hepatitis A cases have been reported. 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. 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 club or restaurant have questions, they may contact DHEC’s Careline at 1-855-4SC-DHEC (1-855-472-3432). Careline staff will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. to answer your questions. For more information on hepatitis A, visit the DHEC website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
NOTE TO MEDIA: In a continuing effort to provide the public vital information about the spread of hepatitis A in South Carolina in the most efficient and appropriate manner, DHEC will begin reporting cases involving potential exposures at restaurants on our agency website in lieu of a press release. Beginning June 18, this most recent case, as well as previous and all future cases, will be found on our Hepatitis A Outbreak page at www.scdhec.gov/HepA.