Customers who ate at Waffle House at 120 S. Goose Creek Blvd., Goose Creek, in Berkeley County, between Aug. 24 and Sept. 13, 2019, might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. DHEC was notified on Sept. 16, 2019, that an employee of the restaurant tested positive for hepatitis A. DHEC is working with Waffle House to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.
This illness is not a foodborne outbreak. The concern is not the restaurant. It is with a food handler who has hepatitis A infection, and they can spread the virus up to two weeks before they know they are sick. The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low. The restaurant received an A rating from DHEC at the last inspection conducted on May 31, 2019. The restaurant is complying with DHEC’s recommendations.
As a precaution, in these situations, vaccination should be considered for individuals who were exposed during the time the food handler was contagious.
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 restaurant.
People who ate food prepared at the restaurant between Sept. 3 and Sept. 13, 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.
Restaurant patrons who were potentially exposed also can visit the Goose Creek Health Department, 106 Westview Dr., Goose Creek, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 19) and Friday (Sept. 20). No appointment is necessary.
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 Aug. 24 and Sept. 2, 2019, 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, belly 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, based on a steady increase in the number of cases. Between Nov. 1, 2018, and Sept. 13, 2019, 409 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.