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Health officials urge diners at downtown restaurant to get checked for hepatitis

August 17, 2018

Customers of a restaurant on the downtown portion of the Central Canal might have been exposed to hepatitis A on Aug. 6, according the Marion County Public Health Department.

Health officials are urging people who ate at Fresco Italian Cafe at 340 W. Michigan St. on Aug. 6 to get a vaccine for the virus, which can inflame and damage the liver.

The health department issued the alert on Friday.

A food worker at the restaurant had tested positive for the disease, which triggered an investigation by the health department, according to Melissa McMasters, a nurse for the department’s infectious diseases program.

The investigation determined that customers could have been exposed to the disease on Aug. 6. McMaster said it would be difficult to speculate on the likelihood that someone might have been infected.

“We really do this out of an abundance of caution,” she said.

The investigation found that the restaurant "has maintained appropriate food service standards and … has cooperated with recommendations and will continue to maintain these standards,” according to the department’s news release.

McMaster confirmed that there was no issue with the operation of the restaurant, and that it is safe for current customers.

Doug Crook, owner of the restaurant, told IBJ on Friday that the employee was a part-time, front-of-the house worker who delivered food to tables. The worker was not involved in food preparation, he said, and Aug. 6 was the last day that the person worked at the restaurant.

"It was just an unfortunate incident," he said. "It was narrowed down to one day. And we've done everything that they've asked of us."

The restaurant did not have to shut down at any time, Crook said on Friday in the middle of a lunch rush.

The health department is offering the vaccine free of charge at its district health offices to people who visited the restaurant and ate food or drank beverages on Aug. 6. A vaccine given within two weeks of exposure to the virus can prevent the disease.

A list of the department’s health offices can be found here.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and a yellowing of the skin or eyes.

The health department encourages all individuals to contact their health care provider immediately if any symptoms are present. Anyone with questions about their risk of possible exposure should call the department at (317) 221-2012.

According to the Mayo Clinic's website, people are most likely to get hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that's infected. Mild cases of hepatitis A don't require treatment. Most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage.

The Canal location of Fresco Italian Café opened in spring of 2013, according to its website. It is located on the canal level of the Cosmopolitan apartment building.

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