Health officials confirm case of Hepatitis A at a Joplin restaurant

JOPLIN, Mo. – Health officials in Joplin confirm a case of Hepatitis A at Chili’s on Range Line.

Interim Health Department Director Ryan Talken says the department was first notified of the Hepatitis A case on Tuesday by a local hospital. That notification was made per state regulations not only for tracking purposes, but because it was at a restaurant.

Talken says a work restriction was placed on Chili’s employees who may have had contact with the person involved. “To lift the restriction the employee has to provide proof of prior Hepatitis A vaccination, they have to get a hepatitis a vaccination now and not be ill currently.”

Talken says they’ve been working with Chili’s at the local and corporate level to ensure compliance among the staff. In addition, the health department provided all Chili’s employees with a Hepatitis A vaccination. Talken says that right now, they don’t have any reason to believe customers were in any danger of exposure. “It’s a lower risk type of situation and we are continuing to monitor.”

Talken says there are a number of factors contributing to the current outbreak, some of which include certain sexual behavior, IV drug users, and homelessness among others. He wants to emphasize that there is no definitive link between this one case and the outbreak itself, because there are other sources of Hepatitis A that are not those we listed. “There’s also a ongoing Hepatitis A risk from eating certain kinds of fresh berries and there’s other exposures which can occur and do occur.”

Regardless of the situation at Chili’s, Talken says with the statewide outbreak, there are signs and symptoms to watch for. “Hepatitis A normally starts off with abdominal cramps, then it progresses into diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, so yellowing of the skin, yellowing of the eyes, clay colored stools.”

As far as precautions to take just remember to wash your hands and cook your food properly.

Talken says you can check with your doctor for a Hepatitis A immunization.

We reached out to Chili’s parent company, Brinker International, who sent us this statement saying quote “After learning one of our team members was affected, we immediately excluded this individual from work and partnered with the Joplin Department of Health to prevent the potential spread by proactively offering vaccinations to all of our team members.”

Related story: Joplin health officials confirm case of Hepatitis A in midst of Missouri “outbreak”

Below is a copy of a letter the Joplin Health Department sent to local restaurants regarding Hepatitis A precautions.