49 cases and 1 secondary case of Hepatitis-A have been connected to an outbreak that started with the diagnosis of a restaurant employee.  There has been at least 31 hospitalized and 1 reported death.  Unfortunately, another death will be reported shortly.  We are now representing 23 Roanoke residents.

But according to the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts director, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the incubation window ended back on October 15, and there have not been any new cases since that date.

There is no ongoing concern about eating at Famous Anthony’s restaurant locations, according to Dr. Cynthia Morrow with the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, saying the exposure period has passed.

The Virginia Department of Health alerted the community last week to watch for symptoms after the diagnosis. Morrow says the restaurant chain has cooperated with health investigators.

The employee worked at three locations, at 4913 Grandin Road, 6499 Williamson Road and Crystal Spring Avenue.

Anyone who is not vaccinated against hepatitis A and was at any of those locations between August 10 and 27 could have been exposed and should watch for the following symptoms, according to VDH:

· jaundice: yellowing of the skin or the eyes,
· fever,
· fatigue,
· loss of appetite,
· nausea,
· vomiting,
· abdominal pain,
· dark urine, or
· light-colored stools.

McKinley Strother’s report from WSLS story today was stunning:

It was an uneventful breakfast trip that changed a Roanoke County family forever. James Hamlin and his wife of 55 years ate one of their favorite local breakfast spots: Famous Anthony’s.

“She has a hard time cooking now and my dad liked to treat her,” said daughter Dana Heston. “It was the one thing they would go do together.”

No one would have imagined it would become one of his last meals.

“He said that he hadn’t been eating much, so he wasn’t feeling well,” explained Heston.

Both Hamlin and his wife fell ill, later testing positive for hepatitis A.

Heston described her father’s symptoms as “nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite.” She says no one knew he was sick at first because he wasn’t one to complain.

She knew it was serious when he suggested going to the emergency room. At the time, it was assumed he likely caught a cold from his grandchildren, whom he often drove to their various activities and had recently been sick.

After a one-night stay in the ER at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Hamlin was sent home. The doctors advised him to see his primary care physician, Heston says. However, Hamlin’s doctor wasn’t available for another week. Hamlin and his family knew he needed medical attention sooner.

A few days later he returned to the emergency room.

“I was working and my mom called and she’s like, ‘Dana, we have to take dad in,’” said Heston.

After about 10 days in the hospital, the 75-year-old husband, father, runner, lover of his grandchildren and his country as a veteran died Oct. 8 from hepatitis A complications.

The Roanoke City & Alleghany Health District and Heston, Hamlin’s daughter, linked his death to the hepatitis A outbreak at three Famous Anthony’s locations on Grandin Road, Williamson Road, and Crystal Spring Avenue. An employee who worked at the three locations was diagnosed with the virus, according to the health district.

As of Tuesday, the health department says 49 cases have been associated with this outbreak; 31 people have been hospitalized and one has died.

“None of my family wants to eat out again,” stated Heston. “Everybody is scared to go anywhere because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Heston says her final conversation with her dad was about getting his car inspected. Busy with work, she was unable to visit that evening. The next morning he could no longer speak.

Despite his age, Heston says her father was healthy.

“He was a 75-year-old man, but he was at the gym at least three times a week,” said Heston. He would lift weights and was a marathoner. He had no serious medical conditions.

Heston says her mom continues to recover but is on the mend, saying “She’s finally feeling better. Last week I was scared we were going to lose her too. She was very sick.”

“COVID is not the only dangerous thing out there,” said Heston. “We all have a responsibility to take care of each other, especially in foodservice.”

The family has hired attorney Bill Marler, who represents several families affected by the outbreak. A Franklin County woman is suing the Roanoke restaurant chain, claiming she’s a part of its recent hepatitis A outbreak.

Heston encourages simple practices like washing your hands and sanitizing workstations and getting vaccinated.

The Roanoke Times Alison Graham wrote an earlier story:

Roanoke County residents James Hamlin and his wife Victoria ate breakfast together at Famous Anthony’s a couple of times every month. After 55 years of marriage, they enjoyed spending time together at their favorite breakfast place.

But after their most recent visit in August, they both fell ill.

James Hamlin felt nauseous and tired, but he wasn’t one to complain about being sick. He assumed he caught a cold from one of his grandchildren, whom he often drove to sports practices and music recitals.

Soon enough, he asked his family to take him to the emergency room at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He was sent home, but his family took him back a few days later when he started to feel worse. After about 10 days in the hospital, the 75-year-old died Oct. 8 from hepatitis A complications.

His daughter, Dana Heston, said the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts have linked Hamlin’s death to a hepatitis A outbreak at three Famous Anthony’s locations — on Grandin Road, Crystal Spring Avenue and Williamson Road. An employee who worked at all three locations was diagnosed with the virus.

As of Wednesday, the health department identified 44 cases with at least 26 hospitalizations and one death.

Heston, of Cave Spring, said her father was a strong and healthy man. He worked out three times per week — lifting weights, riding a stationary bike and walking. He did not have any serious medical conditions.

“The hepatitis A caused his death,” she said. “He had no idea it was something this serious. By the time we knew it was really serious, he was asking to go to the emergency room.”

Heston visited him in the hospital between work and caring for her children. At first, he seemed tired but was still doing well. He told her he needed to get his car’s state inspection renewed and she told him not to worry about it. The next morning, he was too weak to talk.

“That was the last conversation we had,” she said. “He got sick very suddenly. The doctors kept saying there was nothing else they could do and it was really hard to watch him suffer.”

Hamlin and his wife moved to the Roanoke area in 2017 to help Heston and be close to her seven children. The Hamlins’ son, Jim Hamlin, and his daughter Samantha live in Minnesota.

Heston said her father attended all of her children’s sports games, practices and school events, just like he did when she and her brother were kids.

Jim Hamlin said his father stood at an empty track every Saturday in the summer as Jim practiced for his races in high school. His father recorded every split and critiqued his son’s form. Eventually, Jim Hamlin ran track at California State University, Chico, and said he wouldn’t have accomplished it without his dad.

Heston experienced something similar when she went back to college in her 30s. She remembers sitting with her father as they struggled through her physics class together. She juggled school, work and her family, and he helped her manage it all.

“I ended up passing that class and I don’t think I could have done it without his help,” she said. “He was a really giving person. You could always count on him to be there.”

Heston said her mother, 78, still feels ill, but they monitor her closely to make sure her condition isn’t worsening. The suddenness of her dad’s illness makes the situation all the more scary and devastating.

The family has hired Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who is now representing multiple families affected by the outbreak. A Franklin County woman has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant chain for the severe illness she suffered from hepatitis A exposure, according to the lawsuit.

The loss of their father will leave a huge hole in the family, Jim Hamlin said. Their dad sacrificed for all of his kids and grandkids and helped support everyone. The Heston family recently welcomed James Hamlin’s great-granddaughter, whom he will never meet.

“What happened to my dad was preventable,” Jim Hamlin said. “I understand the person wasn’t aware that they were sick, but my dad is still gone. I would just ask that people not make assumptions. Wash your hands, wear your gloves because you just never know what could happen.”