More than 750 people were vaccinated during a four-day clinic this week after possibly being exposed to hepatitis A at an Aiken restaurant last month.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control was notified Jan. 31 that an employee at Aiken Brewing Company had tested positive for the virus. On Monday, DHEC warned customers about possible hepatitis A exposure at the restaurant in downtown Aiken between Jan. 11 and Jan. 26.
Vaccination was recommended if it could be administered less than two weeks from the date of consuming something from the restaurant, with the last date of exposure being Jan. 26, a news release from DHEC said.
DHEC conducted hepatitis A vaccination clinics at the Aiken County Health Department this week for people possibly exposed to the virus between Jan. 21 through Jan. 26, and 772 free vaccines were administered, a DHEC spokesman said Friday. The vaccine is not shown to prevent infection when administered more than 14 days after a specific exposure.
The spokesman said the 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.” The spokesman said the data is preliminary and subject to change.
The clinics were open Monday through Thursday.
Dr. Linda Bell, a state epidemiologist, said in a news release earlier this week that “hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. 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.”
A statement posted Monday on the restaurant’s Facebook page said “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.
“As soon as Aiken Brewing Company was notified by S.C. DHEC officials, we took appropriate actions to contain and control any exposure to all employees and customers per S.C. 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 S.C. DHEC on making sure that all of our employees and patrons are safe and aware of the issue at hand.”
The post encouraged all customers who had eaten at the restaurant between Jan. 11 and Jan. 26 to seek vaccination through DHEC as a precautionary measure.
“All current employees of The Aiken Brewing Company have been vaccinated as a requirement and precaution,” the post said.