The Suffolk County Department of Health Services is recommending that anyone who ate at the Driver’s Seat restaurant in Southampton Village on certain dates in August be treated for a possible hepatitis A infection due to an infected employee.
According to a press release issued late last week, patrons who consumed food or beverages at the restaurant between Tuesday, August 6, and Tuesday, August 20, may have been exposed to the virus. As a result, the Health Services Department is offering free hepatitis A vaccines or immune globulin (IG) to anyone who dined at the restaurant between August 16 and August 20 in the teaching center at Southampton Hospital. The treatments can help prevent or lessen the severity of the virus when given within two weeks of exposure, according to the release.
Anyone who was exposed to the virus before August 16 would most likely already be exhibiting symptoms and should see a doctor for treatment, according to the Health Services Department.
Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver, the release says. The virus may be spread by consuming food or drink that has been handled by an infected person, and also from person to person by consuming something that has been contaminated with fecal material of a person with hepatitis A. The virus is not spread through casual contact.
The SCDHS estimates that approximately 6,700 patrons may have been exposed between August 6 and August 20. As of Wednesday morning, September 4, 417 have been immunized against the virus, according to Grace Kelly-McGovern, a press representative for the agency.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person.”
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and jaundice. Symptoms typically appear within 28 days of exposure. Most people diagnosed with the virus recover within a few weeks, according to the release.
A manager at the Driver’s Seat confirmed on Thursday afternoon that a summer employee at the restaurant did contract the virus while overseas in July.
According to Corinne Rueb, the waiter had been feeling ill while working at the restaurant but did not know he had hepatitis at the time. Ms. Rueb stressed that the employee did not prepare or cook food at the restaurant at any point this summer.
Ms. Rueb said the staff was notified of the virus last week and all employees were being tested and given the vaccine by last Friday. She added that, as a seasonal employee, the waiter’s last day at the establishment was August 19.
“He has already been treated,” she said. “We all just got the news from the Board of Health today so we all have to go and get shots. Anybody that feels they are exposed can go to Southampton Hospital for the shot, which is free.”