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Concord Waffle House Employee May Have Exposed Diners To Hepatitis A

Betty Partin
A transmission electron micrograph of a small cluster of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Roughly 40 people were possibly exposed to hepatitis A while eating at a Waffle House in Concord last month, according to Cabarrus County health officials.

A restaurant employee working at the Waffle House near I-85 and Copperfield Boulevard (1010 Vinehaven Dr.) was infected and exhibited symptoms during a shift at the restaurant that lasted from 9 p.m. on June 20 to 7 a.m. June 21, said Marcella Beam, a spokesperson for the Cabarrus Health Alliance.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, highly contagious viral liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus and can be spread by ingesting contaminated food or water.

Beam said anyone who ate at the restaurant during those times should get vaccinated at their local health department or pharmacy. Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine either before or after someone has been exposed, though should be administered as soon as possible — within two weeks — to people who have recently been exposed, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seven people were vaccinated Saturday at a clinic hosted by the Cabarrus Health Alliance.

The Health Alliance calculated that roughly 40 people were exposed based on sales numbers the restaurant provided for the shift in question, which totaled about $400.

“We equate that to about 40 individuals … about $10 per person,” Beam said.

Beam said the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has notified health officials in South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia about the possible Cabarrus County exposure, in case someone ate at the Waffle House while traveling.

Health officials in three Charlotte area counties, including Cabarrus, have reported a recent increase in the number of hepatitis A cases. Cabarrus health officials have recorded 24 cases so far this year compared to just three cases in all of 2019.

Gaston County officials had seen 122 hepatitis A cases as of June 10 — a dramatic spike from 33 total cases reported in the county between 2018 and 2020.

In 2018, Mecklenburg County Public Health spent two weeks vaccinating some 2,000 people who had been exposed to hepatitis A at a Hardee’s by an infected employee. As of mid-June, the agency had logged 14 cases — two more than the 12 total cases in 2020, according to Gibbie Harris, the county’s public health director.

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