South Carolina

Columbia fast-food restaurant latest to expose customers to hepatitis, SC officials say

A sixth South Carolina restaurant might have exposed its customers to the hepatitis A virus, health officials said Monday.

People who dined at the Hardee’s on Killian Road in Richland County could have been exposed to the virus after an employee tested positive for hepatitis A, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said in a news release.

The restaurant is in a busy retail business area, near the intersection of Killian and Farrow roads, close to a Kroger Marketplace.

Anyone who ate at the fast-food restaurant between June 4 and June 20 “could have been exposed to the virus,” according to the news release.

DHEC said it learned an employee tested positive for hepatitis A on June 21 and began investigating possible exposures. Health officials said the “illness is not a foodborne outbreak,” according to the news release.

This is the sixth time in just over a month that DHEC has reported customers might have been exposed to hepatitis A after dining at a restaurant where an employee tested positive for the virus.

On May 21, DHEC said people who ate at the Lexington County Wild Wing Cafe location could have been exposed to hepatitis A, The State reported.

DHEC said on May 30 that those who dined at Teriyaki Japan in North Augusta were also exposed to the virus, according to The State.

On June 3, diners at the Zaxby’s in a North Charleston outlet mall complex might have been exposed to the virus, The State reported.

Two restaurants, a Popeyes in Aiken and the Harbour Town Yacht Club in Hilton Head, were reported on June 18 by DHEC for having employees that tested positive for hepatitis A.

The Richland County Hardee’s got an A rating the last time it was inspected on May 13, DHEC reported. The Hardee’s “complied with DHEC recommendations for cleaning and vaccination of employees,” according to the news release.

Symptoms of infection include “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin,” and those suffering from the virus “usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed,” DHEC said in the release.

For those who have not already been vaccinated, it should be considered for anyone potentially exposed “within two weeks from their date of consuming anything from the restaurant,” DHEC said in the news release.

DHEC recommends anyone who ate at the restaurant during the exposure timeframe should contact a doctor or pharmacy about treatment.

According to DHEC, “hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage.”

DHEC declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak on May 13, based on a steady increase in the number of cases, as 156 cases have been reported since November.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.