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Hamburger Mary's worker tests positive for hepatitis A

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times]
The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times]
Published Oct. 26, 2018

The Ybor City location of Hamburger Mary's is closed Friday after the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County said a worker tested positive for hepatitis A.

According to the agency, the worker worked at the restaurant chain's Centro Ybor location between Oct. 4 and 20. Lab tests Monday confirmed the presence of the disease and a sign on the door dated Oct. 24 stated the restaurant will be closed until the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants can inspect and approve the drag-themed eatery.

The health department is encouraging anyone who was a customer at Hamburger Mary's between Oct. 4 and 20 who has not already received a hepatitis A vaccine to do so immediately. If you've already had it, the health department said, nothing further needs to be done.

The Department of Health-Hillsborough is offering the vaccine at its Sulphur Springs location, 8605 Mitchell Ave. The clinic will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Friday and Saturday. A 24-hour hotline has been set up at (813) 307-8004.

It said it has also advised doctors and hospitals to stay alert for possible cases.

Reports of hepatitis A have risen sharply in Hillsborough County this year with 37 reported cases so far. Last year there were only 10 and five in 2015 and 2016.

In Pinellas, there have been 58 cases this year. In 2016 there were only two and in 2015 there were four.

Agency spokesman Kevin Watler said, among other states, California, Michigan and Kentucky have also seen increases in hepatitis A cases. In Florida, he said, the Tampa Bay area and Central Florida have seen the largest increases.

"It's not contained through one area and we're not the only state seeing it," Watler said. "There's no real explanation at this stage to identify what's going on."

The best course for now, health department officials across the Tampa Bay say, is to get vaccinated.

RELATED STORY:Pinellas reports a concerning rise in Hepatitis A. Officials urge vaccination.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that can last from a few weeks to several months and is transmitted when someone ingests food or drink contaminated with trace amounts of stool from an infected person. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A is a short-term infection and does not become chronic.

Symptoms of an infection usually show between 15 and 50 days from exposure. Symptoms can include jaundice, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and pale or clay-colored stool, according to the health department.

The health department said the best way to prevent an infection is through vaccination, which can be effective within 14 days of exposure.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

Daniel Figueroa IV can be reached at dfigueroa@tampabay.com. Follow @danuscripts