Feb. 19, 2007, 12:53AM
Houston Health Officials Issue Hepatitis Warning
Health officials say that anyone who ate at a north Houston Pappasito's Cantina in late January or earlier this month may have been exposed to hepatitis A from an infected member of the waitstaff.
A health advisory was issued today for those who ate at the Pappasito's at 15280 Interstate 45 North on Jan. 23-27; Jan. 30-31; and Feb. 1, 3, 7, 8 and 9. Officials know of only one infection involving only the I-45 North restaurant.
Anyone exposed to hepatitis A can be treated with antibodies, but they must receive shots no later than two weeks after exposure, said Dr. Herminia Palacio of Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services.
"This is one of those cases where we were notified in time to actually do something about it," she said. "We're still within the two-week window for folks who ate at this restaurant. This announcement is to offer those folks protection."
The health department will offer free shots of immune globulin antibodies for people who dined at the restaurant on Feb. 7, 8 and 9. The treatment will prevent hepatitis A infection from the current exposure, but it will not offer lifelong immunity.
Feb. 7 diners should get shots no later than Feb. 21, while Feb. 8 diners should get shots no later than Feb. 22 and Feb. 9 diners should get shots no later than Feb. 23.
For those who missed the two-week deadline, look for such symptoms as fever, nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice, and contact a health-care provider.
There is no cure for hepatitis A, a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus, but most people infected do not develop major long-term health problems, Palacio added.
"Hepatitis A, fortunately, generally speaking, does not have long-term consequences," Palacio said, but added that some infected people have significant health problems.
Most people infected with hepatitis A will recover within several weeks, but those infected with hepatitis C become chronic carriers with long-term liver problems.
Hepatitis A is contracted orally. Health officials were notified that a member of the waitstaff was infected after the person became sick, visited a health-care provider and tested positive.
Upon inspection of the restaurant, officials noticed that some members of the waitstaff were not wearing gloves or using scoops when serving tortilla chips.
"The restaurant was really good about working with us and remedying all food-handling issues," Palacio said.
The restaurant manager referred all media questions to the corporate office, but a spokesperson for Pappas Restaurants could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Free shots of immune globulin will be offered Tuesday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Mangum-Howell Center, formerly known as the Doss Community Center, 2500 Frick Road. Visit http://www.hcphes.org/ or call 713-212-0200 for more information.
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