Hepatitis A Infection May Have Been Spread by N.C. Olive Garden Worker

Hundreds of people who ate at an Olive Garden in Fayettesville, North Carolina may have been exposed to a risk of hepatitis A after an infected worker served food at the restaurant last month and earlier this month.

Cumberland County Public Health officials have immunized more than 500 people this week and are continuing the vaccinations after the employee tested positive for hepatitis A, which is a potentially serious virus that can cause swelling of the liver, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

According to local health officials, anyone who ate at the Olive Garden on July 25, 26, 28, 29, 31 and August 1, 2 and 8 may have been exposed to potential hepatitis A infection and should be tested or immunized.

The employee reportedly alerted the restaurant when tests came back positive for infection. The restaurant then alerted health officials, and the server will not be allowed to return until he or she tests clear from the infection.

The restaurant serves about 800 people a day, meaning that as many as 6400 people could have been exposed.

On Tuesday, county health department ran out of Hepatitis A vaccines due to the large volume of people concerned. Lines of nervous Olive Garden customers threaded through the building and filled the lobby.  The county reports that it restocked the next day.

Hepatitis A can take as long as 20 days before symptoms appear after exposure. Getting a vaccination between the exposure and the appearance of the symptoms can help avoid a full-blown infection.

There have been no reports of cases of new Hepatitis A infections stemming from the incident. Symptoms can start to appear as early as two weeks after infection. Early symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Muscle Aches
  • Fatigue

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