Tests negative in 2nd potential Hepatitis A case linked to Mercer County restaurant

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A.J. Ross reports health officials are taking precautions to make sure others are not infected. (WABC)

Health officials investigating a possible second case of hepatitis A linked to a restaurant in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, say the patient does not have the illness.

A 77-year-old man who eats at Rosa's Restaurant and Catering in Mercer County approximately three times a week went to his doctor for a vaccination. Due to his age, he received a blood test, and the initial bloodwork came back positive.

The man was sent to a hospital for further blood tests, which came back negative.

Health officials issued a warning after a worker at the restaurant was confirmed to have hepatitis A, and parents of a school located next to the business were notified that their children may be at risk.

Customers who ate food from Rosa's between Nov. 10 and last Monday are at risk if they have not been vaccinated, according to officials.

The restaurant posted the following message on Facebook Monday.

"THIS AFTERNOON, we learned that a provisional employee (someone who was being reviewed for possible employment) was found to have Hepatitis A. AS A RESULT OF THIS, we immediately stopped operations at our restaurant so that all open foods could be discarded, food areas sanitized and a new staff brought in (outside staff that had not had any contact with the provisional employee). This evening, seven of our employees received precautionary vaccines and all of employees will do so as well before returning to work. Thank you."

The employee, who works in food preparation, has reportedly been hospitalized for a week.

Health officials advise non-vaccinated individuals to receive an injection of immune globulin or hepatitis A vaccine.

Hepatitis A symptoms include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and dark urine and jaundice.

There are additional concerns for students at neighboring St. Raphael's School, which has its lunches provided by the restaurant.

The mayor sent a letter home to parents warning of the possible exposure.

"The Hamilton Township Department of Health has been notified that your child may have been exposed to Hepatitis A infection through food consumption from your school lunch program. More than likely your child has already been vaccinated for Hepatitis A by their pediatrician/healhtcare provider and therefore have no risk of contracting Hepatitis A. Please contact your pediatrician/healthcare provider to determine if you child has received the vaccination for Hepatitis A."

Additionally, a registered public health nurse was at the school at the beginning of the school day and at the end of the school day to answer questions. Parents can also contact the Hamilton Township Division of Health at 609-890-3884.

Officials assure parents that steps have been taken by the Hamilton Township Division of Health to ensure that the lunch provided children is safe.

Health officials urge that if your child has not received the Hepatitis A vaccine, please make an appointment as soon as possible to receive one with your pediatrician/healthcare provider.

The owners at Rosa's are devastated. They've been a popular staple in the community for nearly 40 years without incident and they're now working with health officials to ensure all of their customers get informed and vaccinated.

Still whirling from the news a food preparer recently contracted Hepatitis A, the staff at Rosa's is now doing all they can to ensure both customers and employees are safe.

"Rosa takes pride in this company, she's had it a long time, got it from her father and never a problem," said restaurant employee Donna Severino.

Overnight the restaurant brought in new staff that were not exposed to the infected worker and discarded all food that may have been contaminated. Meanwhile local health officials held a press conference to aggressively inform everyone who may have come in contact with Rosa's food over the past three weeks to see a doctor and get vaccinated.

"This event is an opportunity for our inspectors to reinforce to everyone the importance of gloves, personal hygiene, and the ability to handle food correctly," said Jeff Plunkett of the Hamilton Township Health Department.
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