LANCASTER, Ohio — An outbreak of Hepatitis A has some Fairfield County restaurant owners taking action to protect their workers,customers, and the community. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there are at least 79 cases of Hep-A in the state, about double the amount from all of 2017. Two cases have been reported in the Lancaster area.
In Kentucky, where the outbreak is the largest in the country,more than 1,100 cases are reported and there have been at least six deaths.
Lancaster restaurants are taking a proactive approach after seeing what has occurred in our neighboring state. Jace Stickdorn, managing director for 8 stores in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio, said most of their workers were not previously inoculated for Hepatitis A. No cases have been reported in any of the Golden Corrals.
“It was really scary. Kentucky was kind of ground zero and restaurants and businesses were really impacted. Sales were down 70 to 80 percent in some high volume restaurants.”
“The average inoculation is $60 to $80 dollars, depending on the region, the average store costs $3,000 to $5,000 dollars to get inoculated. The expense of not far outweighs in our minds, if you would have an outbreak. Just the repercussions of a person or their family. Let alone repercussions to the restaurant and down sales,” said Stickdorn.
“We thought it was almost a no brainer, if you may, it’s very important that we do not want this in our restaurants,” said Stickdorn.
“We think we are doing a great thing and hope other restaurants will follow our lead in the communities we are in to really protect everyone.”
Customer Bob Smith said he is glad to find out the restaurants are taking the outbreak seriously. “They have got someone on just, that is there whole job is making sure the place stays clean. That is important. That is why we come here.”
Tiffany Nash, Nursing Director with the Fairfield County Health Department said symptoms include anything from nausea, fatigue, dark colored urine , light colored stools, cramping, and headaches.
“Once you get Hep A you cannot get it again. Your body starts to build those antibodies up to protect you in the future.”
If you get a Hep A vaccine but unknowingly have already had it, experts said it won’t hurt you.
“The State is recommending food workers that have not been vaccinated get vaccinated. So we are working with those restaurants who are willing to pay for their employees to get the vaccine,” said Nash.
The vaccine normally kicks in two to four weeks after the first dose.
“We are watching the trends as they go to see where this is coming from and where it is going to be and just try to do as much education as possible in the meantime.”
Rax and Max and Ermas restaurants also said they are vaccinating their workers in the Lancaster area.
In Franklin County, a health department spokesman said they have not been working with restaurants but are evaluating the situation.