Customers who ate at Teriyaki Japan on Edgefield Road in North Augusta might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.

DHEC was notified on May 29, 2019, that an employee of the restaurant tested positive for hepatitis A. Customers who ate there between May 14 and May 28, 2019, could have been exposed to the virus. DHEC is working with Teriyaki Japan 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 here is not the restaurant. It is with a food handler who has hepatitis A infection,” said Dr. Linda Bell, MD and state epidemiologist. The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low, Dr. Bell said. The restaurant received an A rating from DHEC at the last inspection conducted on Nov. 27, 2018.

“As a precaution, in these situations, vaccination should be considered for individuals who were exposed during the time the food handler was contagious,” Dr. Bell said.

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 May 16 and May 28, 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 Aiken County Health Department at 222 Beaufort Street, NE in Aiken from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday (May 31) and Monday (June 3). 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 May 14 and May 15 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.

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.

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 May 24, 2019, 106 hepatitis A cases have been reported. That is more than five times the number of cases (19) typically seen in a year in South Carolina.