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Last Call for Free Inoculations : County Giving Final Shots in Hepatitis Scare Today

January 30, 1986

Today is the last day the Los Angeles County health department will be giving free inoculations to people who ate at Bengies restaurant in Glendale and were possibly exposed to hepatitis A, an infectious liver disease.

As of Wednesday morning, almost 4,000 people who ate at the 24-hour restaurant between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16 had visited the Glendale Health Center for a shot of gamma globulin. The inoculation, made of concentrated antibodies prepared from human blood, is most effective within the first two weeks of exposure to the disease, which normally has an incubation period of one month, health officials said.

The inoculation program began over the weekend after a warning was issued Friday that a salad preparer at the restaurant had contracted the disease. The health department has not had reports of any other hepatitis cases connected to the restaurant worker, said Dr. Zuzka Eggena, district health officer.

Eggena said the classic symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Some people who come down with the disease, which is transmitted by a virus, may have no warning symptoms, she said.

Many of those who stood in the long lines outside the health center at 501 N. Glendale Ave. waited more than an hour to get the free shot.

Edward Miller, a Silver Lake resident who said he was an occasional Bengies patron, ate an omelet there on Jan. 16. "It was pretty tasty," he recalled. "Of course, now it's left a bad taste in my mouth."

He said he didn't plan to go back to Bengies, a coffee shop-style restaurant at 1000 S. Brand Blvd., "for at least six months."

Bengies management reported a drop in business since the announcement.

"It's way down," said Donna Snyder, wife of restaurant owner Gary Snyder. She said the restaurant probably will launch a public relations campaign to win back customers.

The health center will continue giving the shots until 4 p.m. today. Health center workers have been assisted in handling the large numbers of people by volunteers from the Glendale Red Cross.

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