Jennifer Calhoun and James Halpin, staff writers for the Fayetteville Observer, reported this morning that the Cumberland County Health Department has already vaccinated more than 500 people who may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus after eating at an Olive Garden in Fayetteville, North Carolina and is continuing to administer vaccinations today.
The Cumberland County Public Health Department issued an alert yesterday that anyone who visited the Olive Garden, located on 234 North McPherson Church Road in Fayetteville, North Carolina anytime on July 25, 26, 28, 29, 31 and August 1, 2 and 8 may have been exposed to Hepatitis A through a restaurant employee who tested positive for the disease and subsequently alerted restaurant management. According to the report by Calhoun and Halpin, the announcement prompted hundreds to visit the free clinic at the Health Department for the vaccination.
Calhoun and Halpin wrote:
The hepatitis scare that began when an Olive Garden employee tested positive for the illness sent droves of diners to the Cumberland County Health Department on Tuesday seeking vaccinations they hoped would stave off disease.
Parking spots were in short supply and a line hundreds long wrapped around the lobby and down a hallway of the Ramsey Street building, prompting county officials to extend clinic hours late into the night.
The Olive Garden on North McPherson Church Road serves about 800 people every day, and those who dined there on seven specific dates – as well as the employees – are being asked to get vaccinated, according to county health officials.
County health officials had vaccinated about 500 people on Tuesday after extending hours at a free clinic at the Health Department by four hours, until about 9:00PM, Health Department Director Buck Wilson said.
The Health Department ran out of shots on Tuesday afternoon; however, according to their informational hotline at 910-433-3824 they received additional supplies on Tuesday evening and again this morning. Health Department Director Buck Wilson informed the public that the clinic would be fully stocked with Hepatitis A vaccinations as of 10:00AM Wednesday morning. Those vaccinations are available to individuals aged 12 months to 40 years who ate at the Fayetteville Olive Garden on the above mentioned dates.
However, the Cumberland County Health Department is not the only facility overwhelmed by the number of individuals who may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus. Calhoun and Halpin said:
Officials at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center were feeling the crunch. The hospital had received a large number of calls and emergency room visits on Tuesday from people concerned about exposure to hepatitis A, said Vince Benbenek, a hospital spokesman.
Currently, Olive Garden has indicated that the employee who tested positive for the virus will not be allowed to return to work until they are cleared by a physician. Unfortunately, thousands of Olive Garden patrons could have already been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus. As Calhoun and Halpin noted:
Some customers said their opinions of Olive Garden had tanked with the hepatitis scare, saying they wouldn’t return, while others said they understood it could happen at any eatery.
“It just makes you realize how people aren’t that clean,” said 23-year-old Leigh-Anne Holland, who ate at Olive Garden on July 31. “It can happen anywhere.”
It is important for individuals who may have been exposed to know that symptoms of Hepatitis A usually appear around 28 days after infection, but can start as early as two weeks after catching the virus. Early symptoms of this hepatitis virus include:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Weakness and fatigue
For more information about the Hepatitis A virus, please visit http://www.about-hepatitis.com/.