Food handler at Chickamauga McDonald's diagnosed with hepatitis A

An investigation found that an employee at the Chickamauga McDonald's worked at the restaurant while infectious with hepatitis A, from March 4 through March 17. (Image: WTVC)

The Northwest Georgia Health District says a food handler at the McDonald's in Chickamauga on Lafayette Road has been diagnosed with hepatitis A.

An investigation found that this employee worked at the restaurant while infectious from March 4 through March 17.

We spoke with the owner of the McDonald's on Thursday shortly after the news broke. He told us that the infected part time employee will not be working at the restaurant until they are medically cleared.

The owner, Jim Aaron, released this statement to NewsChannel 9:

"We have been notified by the Walker Countyh Health Department that one of our employees has become ill, however, the transmission risk to guests and employees who have visited our restaurant is low. At this time, we are fully cooperating with local officials to ensure the health and safety of all our employees and guests. My organization is taking proactive steps in offering to vaccinate all of our employees against hepatitis A. We are 100 percent committed to providing a clean and safe environment for all who visit our restaurant."

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect the liver's ability to function. It is treatable, however, and the best way to prevent getting the virus is to regularly wash your hands.

While it is relatively rare for restaurant patrons to become infected with hepatitis A virus due to an infected food handler, “there might be some risk to the public,” says District Health Director Dr. Unini Odama, “and therefore we are doing everything necessary to protect the public and anyone that might have been inadvertently exposed to the hepatitis A virus.”

The Health District urges recent customers of the restaurant to contact their doctor or their local health department to help determine if a vaccination is needed.

Free hepatitis A vaccination will be provided at the Catoosa and Walker County Health Departments on Thursday, March 28, 8 am-6:30 pm; Friday, March 29, 8 am-2 pm; and Saturday, March 30 from 8 am to 12 noon.

  • Catoosa County Health Department, 145 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold, GA 706-406-2000
  • Walker County Health Department, 603 E. Villanow Street, LaFayette, GA 30728 706-638-5577

This is the third confirmed case this year of hepatitis A involving a food handler at a restaurant in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.

Last week, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department said an employee of the Western Sizzlin' in Ooltewah was diagnosed with hepatitis A. It urged customers who dined at the restaurant between March 10th and March 20th to get vaccinated.

Last month, a restaurant worker at the Crescent City Tavern in Dalton was also diagnosed, and the Whitfield County Health Department urged customers who dined there between December 28th, 2018 and January 31st of this year to get vaccinated.

Anyone who consumed food and/or drink at the Chickamauga McDonald's on the dates that employee worked is also asked to:

  • Monitor their health for symptoms of hepatitis A infection up to 50 days after exposure.
  • Wash their hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
  • Stay at home and contact their healthcare provider immediately if symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop.

Careful hand washing, including under the fingernails, with soap and water, along with vaccination of anyone at risk of infection, will prevent the spread of this disease.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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