Ugly Grouper worker carried Hepatitis A

Updated July 5 – HOLMES BEACH – The Manatee County Health Department has identified a case of Hepatitis A in a food service worker in Holmes Beach.

Following laboratory confirmation on July 1, the department immediately began conducting an epidemiological investigation and determined that the individual worked at The Ugly Grouper restaurant, 5704 Marina Drive, while infectious.

The worker is recovering, The Ugly Grouper General Manager Thad Treadwell said, adding, “He thought he had the flu,” but tested positive at the hospital.

“With the outbreak that’s going on, you could get it anywhere,” he said.

Another case of Hepatitis A was confirmed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in a food service worker at Sandpiper Grille in Sun City Center in March.

Since January 2019, 1718 cases of Hepatitis A have been reported in Florida, an increase reflecting national trends, with more than 20,000 cases identified nationwide, according to DOH, which recommends vaccination as the best protection.

Fewer than 5% of Hepatitis A cases are food service workers, and no cases of Hepatitis A transmission from a food worker to a restaurant patron have been documented, according to DOH.

The Manatee County Health Department offers free vaccines, with the next vaccine clinic on Saturday, July 6 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the main office, 410 Sixth Ave. E. in Bradenton. Beginning next week, the vaccine will be available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the health department.

Ugly Grouper statement

The Ugly Grouper released this statement on Friday, July 5:

“On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 2nd 2019, The Ugly Grouper was notified by the Manatee County Health Department of a positive test of Hepatitis A in a member of our serving staff. Thankfully, that team member has been treated and we wish them a speedy recovery at home. At The Ugly Grouper, we take food safety very seriously. As a precautionary measure, on that same evening, we instituted a 12-hour deep cleaning process of the entire restaurant.  The following morning at 10 a.m., the Health Department confirmed our current practices meet all cleanliness and operational compliance standards. Vaccinations were also offered to the entire staff by the Health Department, which were accepted by all to ensure the continued safety of our staff and patrons… The Ugly Grouper on average serves over 750 customers daily, and would like to thank all of the loyal fans of The Ugly Grouper who understand our commitment to high quality and superior service. With everyone’s support, we will continue to be one of the fastest growing and best destinations for tourists and locals on Anna Maria Island.  If there are any follow up questions, please direct them to our general manager, Thad Treadwell, at [email protected]

Ugly Grouper worker carried Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A vaccines were given Friday at Anna Maria Elementary School. – Bob Alexander | Sun

What to do if you are exposed

The Manatee County Health Department advises anyone who patronized The Ugly Grouper prior to June 22 and had not previously been vaccinated for Hepatitis A to consider being vaccinated at the Manatee County Health Department or primary care physician’s office. You will receive the first dose of the vaccine, with a second dose being administered six months later. If you have previously received the Hepatitis A vaccine, you do not need to take additional action.

The health department offers free vaccines, with the next vaccine clinic on Saturday, July 6 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the main office, 410 Sixth Ave. E. in Bradenton. Beginning next week, the vaccine will be available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the health department.

The Hepatitis A vaccine may provide protection against the disease if given within two weeks after exposure. Patrons should monitor for symptoms of Hepatitis A infection which include sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, pale white stools and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice). Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention promptly.

A hotline has been set up for people who have questions about Hepatitis A at 941-708-5951.

People who should be vaccinated include:

  • All children at age one year
  • People who are homeless
  • Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • Men who have sexual encounters with other men
  • People with direct contact with others who have Hepatitis A
  • Travelers to countries where Hepatitis A is common
  • People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
  • People with clotting-factor disorders
  • Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where Hepatitis A is common

Hepatitis A treatment, prevention

Besides vaccination, practicing good hand hygiene plays an important role in preventing the spread of Hepatitis A, according to the health department.

Wash hands after using the bathroom — alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill the Hepatitis A virus. Use soap and running water and wash for at least 20 seconds, wash hands after changing a diaper or caring for a person, and wash hands before preparing, serving or eating food.

No medicines can cure the disease once symptoms appear. People with Hepatitis A symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

Most people get better over time but may need to be hospitalized.

Previous infection with Hepatitis A provides immunity for the rest of a person’s life.

People who are exposed to Hepatitis A may be given vaccine or immune globulin within 14 days of exposure to prevent infection.

How Hepatitis A is investigated

After a case of Hepatitis A has been reported to the health department by a health care provider, a county health department epidemiologist will interview the individual and collect information regarding the timeline of their past 50 days, including travel, occupation, food history and more. The epidemiologist will then identify all close contacts of the ill person who should receive the Hepatitis A vaccine to prevent any possible spread of the illness.

The majority of cases are close contacts of persons who are experiencing homelessness, or persons who use injected or non-injected drugs.