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130 Contract Hepatitis A at Mall Eatery

November 07, 2003|From Associated Press

MONACA, Pa. — At least 130 people contracted hepatitis A in an outbreak at a mall's Mexican restaurant, authorities said Thursday. Two people were in critical condition.

The state Health Department is investigating the cause of the outbreak at Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurant at the Beaver Valley Mall, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Officials suspect the virus was spread by a worker who failed to wash his or her hands before handling food.

Health Department spokesman Richard McGarvey said officials ordered 8,000 shots of immune globulin, an antibody treatment that greatly reduces the chances of contracting the disease if administered within 14 days of exposure.

About 2,800 people were immunized Wednesday and 2,400 more Thursday, McGarvey said.

A telephone message left for Prandium Inc., the parent company of Chi-Chi's, was not returned Thursday. The mall's restaurant has been closed since Monday. An estimated 5,000 restaurant patrons were believed to have been exposed.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, nausea, diarrhea, jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. The disease usually clears up in about two months.

While the number of cases is at a historic low, outbreaks have occurred throughout the nation.

In September, about 280 people in Georgia and Tennessee were sickened by contaminated green onions.

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