NEW YORK CITY - February 21, 2008 - In response to a case of Hepatitis A in a bartender at Socialista in Manhattan, the Health Department today notified patrons of the exposure and urged them to get a Hepatitis A vaccination as a precautionary measure. Hepatitis A is spread by putting something in one's mouth (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with traces of fecal matter from an infected person. Any patron who visited the establishment after 8 p.m. on February 7th or 8th, or after 10 p.m. on February 11th (the times the infected person worked after becoming infectious), is considered to be at risk and needs a preventive shot.
The bar owners, who are cooperating fully with the Health Department, estimate that about 700-800 people may have visited on these nights. No additional cases of illness have been identified.
People can visit their regular doctor to receive this shot. The Health Department will also offer free vaccinations at P.S. 41 elementary school at 116 West 11th Street (at 6th Ave.) in Manhattan to patrons at the following times:
- Friday, February 22, 4 p.m.- 10 p.m.
- Saturday, February 23, 1 p.m. - 8 p.m.
- Sunday, February 24, 1 p.m. - 6 p.m.
People who were exposed but have already received two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine sometime in their life do not need another shot; all others should be vaccinated.
"We are asking these bar patrons to get this vaccination as a precautionary measure," said Dr. Sharon Balter, Medical Epidemiologist at the Health Department. "If people experience symptoms, they should see a doctor, but for most people bed rest and avoiding alcohol are all that is needed to recover. This incident serves as an important reminder to always wash hands thoroughly and regularly to prevent the spread of disease."
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus. It is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with traces of fecal matter from an infected person. Most people recover within a few weeks with bed rest and by avoiding alcoholic beverages. There are no special medicines or antibiotics that can be used to treat a person once the symptoms appear.
Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. While some people who have chronic liver disease or a weakened immune system could experience more severe illness and require hospitalization, hepatitis A is very rarely fatal (fewer than 1% of cases).
In order for the vaccine to be most effective, people who have been exposed to Hepatitis A should be vaccinated within 14 days. The earlier the vaccine is given, the more effective it is in preventing the disease. In general, the vaccine is 80% to 90% effective.
About the Investigation
The Health Department investigates all cases of Hepatitis A in New York City. Of the 120-150 cases confirmed annually by the Department, fewer than 10 occur in foodservice workers and the Health Department sends an inspector to the site to evaluate whether there is a risk to patrons.
The Department was notified of this case on February 19, began the investigation, and inspected the bar last night. The inspector found that there was no soap for hand-washing, increasing the risk to patrons and prompting the precautionary notification. The Health Department is identifying household and other contacts of this individual, a routine practice in Hepatitis A investigations.
For more information on Hepatitis A, please see the Health Department's fact sheet.