Customers at Gwinnett restaurant potentially exposed to hepatitis A

Diners who recently ate at Lolita’s Bar and Grill in Lawrenceville may have been exposed to hepatitis A and Gwinnett County Health Department officials are recommending they monitor for symptoms of the illness and in some cases, seek out a vaccine.

The health department said a server at the restaurant, located at 472 Buford Drive in Lawrenceville, has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, a very contagious viral infection. Symptoms of an infection are loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown colored urine, light-colored stools and yellowing of the skin or eyes.

The local health department said anyone who ate at the restaurant between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7 may have been exposed and should contact their healthcare provider or the Gwinnett County Health Department to determine if a hepatitis A vaccine is needed to prevent illness. The vaccine is available at the Gwinnett County Health Department to exposed individuals with no out-of-pocket cost, regardless of insurance status.

The restaurant has been cooperative with the health department’s investigation and has taken proactive measures including scheduling immunizations for susceptible employees and thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the restaurant, according to the health department.

Hepatitis A spreads when a person ingests the virus through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating food or drink handled by someone carrying the virus. Hepatitis A can be spread when restaurant workers who have the virus don’t wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.

Symptoms usually begin two to seven weeks after exposure and generally last less than 2 months but can last as long as 6 months. Most people with hepatitis A do not have long-lasting illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it can cause serious illness, including inflammation of the liver, and some people with severe symptoms require hospitalization.

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. In most cases, the liver heals within six months with no lasting damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The health department recommends those potentially exposed get a vaccination within 14 days of exposure if they have not previously been vaccinated for or had hepatitis A. Those who have already been vaccinated or have been sick with hepatitis A in the past are considered immune and don’t need a vaccine at this time, according to the health department.

In 2021, a total of 5,728 cases of hepatitis A were reported in the United States, but due to underreporting, the actual number of cases is likely around 11,500, according to the CDC.

Those with questions are recommended to reach out to their health care provider or can call the Gwinnett County Health Department at 770-339-4260 (press 0 and ask to speak with the epidemiologist on call). An epidemiologist can also be reached after hours at 404-323-1910 or 866-PUB-HLTH.

About the Author