Over the last weeks I have talked to and been retained by dozens of Roanoke area residents sickened, and the family members of a man and a woman who died, from hepatitis A after the simple act of eating at a local restaurant where an unvaccinated employee worked while infectious and who failed to wash their hands and wear gloves after going to the restroom.
Some of Famous Anthony’s now sickened patrons have been hospitalized and now face mounting medical bills and the loss of wages, or even a job. All who survived now face months of recovery. The death leaves a hole in the family that will never be filled.
To be clear, hepatitis A is a human fecal virus that is transmitted via the fecal/oral route. This outbreak would not have happened if the employee had been vaccinated and/or if he or she had washed their hands after going to the restroom and before making food.
Famous Anthony’s released a statement Friday regarding the cases:
“Since 1986, Famous Anthony’s restaurants have been committed to providing affordable quality meals to their guests. The management and ownership have always strived to treat their many loyal customers and staff like family.
Upon notification of a possible Hepatitis A exposure at three of its establishments during the dates of August 10, 2021 to August 27, 2021, Famous Anthony’s has cooperated fully with the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts. Famous Anthony’s has provided a safe environment for customers and workers for 35 years, and it continues to work with health officials and comply with any recommendations given to it by the appropriate authorities to ensure the continued safe operation of all of its current locations.
As Famous Anthony’s continues its investigation, it wishes to express that it is mindful of the impact this unforeseen event has and continues to have on individuals and families in this community. Additionally, Famous Anthony’s offers its heartfelt concern and sympathy for all those affected.”
Health officials first reported the exposure outbreak on Friday, September 24, 2021.
Of note, the ill employee was most likely infectious in the week BEFORE their symptom onset which presumably would be the last days of August. One question will be, since hepatitis A by law is a reportable disease, why it was at least a month before health officials were notified or health officials notified the public?
Thus far there at 37 confirmed cases (not clear if that also counts the ill employee), with 26 hospitalized and 1 death – thus far. Those numbers are likely to grow as additional primary (cases that ate at Famous Anthony’s) or secondary (cases linked to the care of ill primary cases).
The bottom line is that Famous Anthony’s has a moral and ethical obligation to take care of these people. Famous Anthony’s should pay hepatitis A victims’ medical expenses and wage loss and vaccinate its employees, now!