JOPLIN, Mo. – Health department officials confirm a case of Hepatitis A at another Joplin restaurant. This case was discovered at Hackett Hot Wings in downtown Joplin. Officials though say the employee involved was not in a food handling position.
Officials say they were notified Monday of a case of Hepatitis A at Hackett Hot Wings and by Wednesday night, they were at the restaurant vaccinating employees who may have had contact with the infected person. Interim City Manager and former Health Department Director Dan Pekarak tells us what usually happens in these cases. “What would normally happen, the health department staff go in and do the preventative hepatitis a vaccinations with staff and just as a method to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere else.”
And Pekarek says that’s exactly what’s taken place at Hackett’s, and the restaurant has been fully cooperative with the health department.
Pekarek says despite the outbreak now, Hepatitis A is generally not a common problem. “For many years we’ve been seeing very very low numbers of Hepatitis A in our community, I think it was back in the late 80s or early 90s when we had our last Hepatitis A outbreak.”
The city notified residents back in October of last year about the statewide outbreak, providing precautions people can take. Although there’s been two cases at restaurants, there’s been no notice of this to the community, and Pekarak tells us why. “There isn’t any kind of requirement that says if it’s in a restaurant or something like that that you do a public notification.”
We checked with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and they confirmed that, barring some extraordinary circumstances, public notices of cases aren’t required. Pekarek says that’s because of guidance from the CDC. “Now that the CDC has looked at this longer and harder and said the risk factor of transmission outside of that close personal contact circle of friends is just not very high at all.”
I spoke with the Interim Health Department Director, Ryan Talken, this morning on the phone. He tells me there’s currently no known link between this case, and the case at Chili’s last week in Joplin. But of course, they are continuing to investigate and monitor for any potential trends.
Both Pekarak and Talken say customers at either restaurant shouldn’t be concerned because the risk of of them getting Hepatitis A is very low. They both still recommend if you have any concerns, to talk with your family physician about getting a Hepatitis A vaccination.