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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Caution Prevails Against Hepatitis A

Michael Schroeder of the Journal Gazette reports that since a server at the Coventry Pizza Hut was diagnosed with hepatitis A nearly two weeks ago, no related cases have been reported. But health officials – fully aware of the virus’ average month-long incubation period during which infected persons exhibit no outward symptoms – are keeping close watch.

In all, 3,858 people received shots at eight immunization clinics set up in the wake of the hepatitis A diagnosis Aug. 24, Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County health commissioner, said Tuesday.

A total of 219 doses were sent out of the area (though not all were used) to Purdue University, Indiana University, Notre Dame and even Canada, among other locations. The shots are intended mostly for students and some others who ate food from the Coventry Pizza Hut.

Working with the restaurant, the health department estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 people may have been exposed to hepatitis A between Aug. 3 and Aug. 19, when the infected server was working and contagious. A total of 5,100 meals were served during that time.

For now, it’s a wait-and-see game.

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who has handled a number of class action suits related to hepatitis A cases at restaurants, said it didn’t have to be that way.

Marler commended Pizza Hut on its handling of the case – including paying for shots, supplies and associated medical costs, something he said restaurants rarely do. But he said that restaurants in general should require that employees be vaccinated for hepatitis A so there is no chance the problem will arise in the first place.

“It’s relatively cheap insurance,” Marler said.