The Allentown Health Bureau has issued a Hepatitis A exposure warning to recent patrons of the Pasta Alla Rosa Restaurant located in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  The warning announced after an employee of the restaurant tested positive for the virus.

Anyone who ate at the restaurant between September 23 and October 7, and has not been previously vaccinated against Hepatitis A, is asked to immediately receive an immune globulin shot.  After exposure, immune globulin is 80% to 90% effective in preventing clinical hepatitis A, but only when administered quickly–within 2 weeks of the last exposure.  The Allentown Health Bureau will make vaccine available next Monday. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., they will have a walk-in clinic at 245 North Sixth Street for unvaccinated guests between the ages of 1 and 40.

The Bureau also requested a supply of immune globulin from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Bureau will offer it to unvaccinated guests over the age of 40 once it becomes available.

This is not Pennsylvania’s first experience with Hepatitis A exposure at a restaurant.  In 2003, a large outbreak of Hepatitis A was linked to exposure at the Chi Chi’s restaurant in the Beaver Valley Mall.  Pennsylvania State health officials first learned of a potential Hepatitis A outbreak from emergency room doctors in Beaver County, who reported an unusually high number of Hepatitis A cases in late October, 2003. Investigators from the health department began investigating the people who had fallen ill, and determined that the common thread for all was having eaten at the Chi Chi’s restaurant at the Beaver Valley Mall. Once the department isolated the restaurant as the probable source of the outbreak, Chi Chi’s closed the restaurant voluntarily and it remained closed for a number of weeks.

Ultimately, over 650 confirmed cases, both primary and secondary, were linked to this outbreak. The victims included at least 13 employees of the Chi Chi’s restaurant, and numerous residents of six other states. Four persons died as a consequence of their Hepatitis A illnesses. In addition, more than 9,000 persons who had eaten at the restaurant during the period of potential exposure, or who had been exposed to ill persons, obtained immune globulin shots as protection against the Hepatitis A virus.