LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ind. – For the third time in the past two months, a Lawrence County restaurant employee has been diagnosed with hepatitis-A. This time, the employee who was sick with the virus was working at Mamma’s Mexican-Italian restaurant in Bedford.
“People kind of think that it is never going to happen to me, but guess what? Nobody is protected on this,” said Ernie Coffman, the owner of the restaurant.
Coffman says he had to temporarily close after one of his employees was diagnosed with hep-A.
“We got a call from the health department. We went down there and they told us the situation and we immediately closed and made sure everyone went and got their shots,” said Coffman.
The Lawrence County Health Department would not talk about the outbreak on camera. In fact, when we went to their offices they called police to have us removed. Officials did confirm the employee was handling food while infected with the highly-contagious infection on June 8-9. They are now urging anyone who ate at Mamma’s during the week in question to get their hep-A vaccination.
“It is a setback for every restaurant in town. The whole state,” said Coffman.
Mamma’s is the third Bedford restaurant to have an employee test positive for hep-A. Just last week, it was a fast food worker at Burger King. Back in April, an employee at Marco’s pizza. So far this year, the state department of health says there have been 21 confirmed cases of hep-A in Lawrence County and more than 100 statewide.
“This is a serious situation,” said Coffman.
The liver infection spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drink that is contaminated by a small undetected amount of stool from an infected person. Although not required, food employees are encouraged to get vaccinated.
“I think that is going to be part of getting hired from now on. If you go to school you must get vaccinated so if you work in the food you should get vaccinated,” said restaurant worker Jeremiah Allen.
Health officials are urging everyone to get their hep-A vaccination. Several employees at local restaurants were in line to get those shots today.