Ooltewah restaurant where employee was diagnosed with Hep A is closing

Ooltewah restaurant where employee was diagnosed with Hep A is closing (Image: WTVC)

A few weeks after an employee at the Western Sizzlin Restaurant in Ooltewah was diagnosed with Hepatitis A, that same restaurant has now closed its doors.

Back in March, an employee at the 6021 Relocation Way location was diagnosed with Hepatitis A.

A statement from the restaurant released Sunday afternoon confirmed the closing. In the statement, the restaurant claims they are closing due to decreased business after one of their employees was diagnosed with Hep A.

The restaurant also apologized to those in the community who may have been exposed, and encourage those in the region to get vaccinated against the virus.

Here is the full official release:

On Sunday night, Western Sizzlin owner Johnny Miller stood before his employees and told them they wouldn't have a job there, letting nearly 50 people go.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life," says Miller. "It was heart wrenching. I haven't slept."

He says the Ooltewah restaurant, with health inspection scores historically in the 90s, tanked in a matter of three weeks.

According to an April 1 health inspection report, the restaurant got a score of 97. The inspector noted that the facility had been completely sanitized, and all staff were trained on the employee illness policy.

You can read the inspection report below:

Bonnie Deakins from the Hamilton County Health Department says the county offers food safety training every month.

Miller says he's always met county expectations. This was something he never saw coming. "We abided with all regulations. Despite that we had employee that was diagnosed," he said.

We spoke with hepatologist Dr. Chirug Patel, who says he's treated more than 20 patients diagnosed with hepatitis this year alone.

We asked him how restaurant owners can protect their employees and customers during a multi-state outbreak like this. "I would suggest that food handlers would be vaccinated," said Dr. Patel.

He says now more than ever, people must wash their hands and wear gloves when they prepare food.

Miller says vaccinations are now mandatory at his other Western Sizzlin location in Dalton, Georgia.

This is a developing story. Depend on us for updates.

You can watch our previous reports below:

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