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Hepatitis A case confirmed in Buffalo pizzeria worker

Omar Fetouh, WBFO

The Erie County Health Department confirmed Friday afternoon a case of Hepatitis A has been diagnosed in an individual who handled food at a Buffalo-based pizzeria. The county will offer vaccination clinics early next week for those who consumed any food or drinks from Platinum Pizza between Aug. 8 and Aug. 11.

Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says the investigation began on Tuesday after a local emergency department received a patient with a suspected case. The Health Department's own testing confirmed Hepatitis A in an employee who handled food at the pizzeria, located at 1575 Broadway.

Hepatitis A is a disease which attacks the liver and is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or through the consumption of contaminated food or water.

"People who are most at risk of Hepatitis A are people who have had direct contact with someone who has Hepatitis A infection," said Commissioner Burstein. "This can happen up to two weeks before the infected person develops any symptoms. You and the individual may not be aware of the exposure at the time."

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and clay-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice. Hepatitis A, Burstein says, is stoppable by receiving a vaccine.

Erie County will host vaccination clinics for anyone possibly exposed in this case. The clinics will be held Monday, Aug. 19 and Tuesday, Aug. 20 from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Erie County Training and Operations Center at 3359 Broadway in Cheektowaga. The vaccines will be available only to those who ate food made at Platinum Pizza between Aug. 8 and Aug. 11.

Those coming to receive the vaccine must bring a photo identification or driver's license. Pre-registration is also available.

Credit Erie County Health Department
A digital image of a flyer issued by the Erie County Health Department concerning a Hepatitis A case confirmed at a Buffalo pizzeria and vaccination clinics that the county is offering in response to that case.

The vaccine, the health commissioner insists, is safe and added that she and her family have all received it.

"This vaccine will prevent potentially-exposed individuals from developing Hepatitis A infection," Burstein said. "Those who develop symptoms suggestive of Hepatitis A virus should seek medical evaluation from a health care provider."

Limited shuttle rides will be available within the city, leaving from the parking lot of St. John Kanty Church at 101 Swinburne St. in Buffalo.

The employee diagnosed with Hepatitis A remains off the job and Burstein says it will stay that way until the individual is again healthy and out of the disease transmission period. County officials were working Friday to vaccinate the rest of the staff.

Burstein noted that the establishment was also cited for some health code violations during the Aug. 13 visit to investigate the Hepatitis A concern.

"There were four critical and 24 non-critical violations cited," she said. "An inspection is happening today. The most notable violations were employees not changing gloves before performing various tasks like cashing and cleaning and preparing food. There was no soap in the hand wash sink and there was no sanitizing step in the dishwashing process. We're there today to ensure they're in process of getting that repaired."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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