5 Confirmed Cases of Hepatitis Reported in Napa County

Five confirmed cases of hepatitis A, a contagious liver disease, have been reported to Napa County Public Health in the past five weeks, health officials said Thursday.

Two cases involve employees of La Toque restaurant and BANK Café and Bar in The Westin Verasa Napa hotel at 1314 McKinstry St. in Napa, the Napa County Public Health Division said.

"Having five cases even though we don't have an obvious link between them is extraordinarily unusual," Napa County Public Health Officer Karen Smith said.

The source of the infection is unknown and there are no known cases involving customers. People who consumed food or drink at La Toque restaurant and BANK Café and Bar between Feb. 9 and Feb. 26 might have been exposed to Hepatitis A and should monitor their health for 50 days after their visit, the Napa County Public Health Division said.

The three other cases of hepatitis A have no known association with the hotel or other public settings. Officials said those cases involve members of the same family.

Don Shindle, general manager of The Westin Verasa Napa said the hotel is taking all measures to ensure the safety of guests and associates.

"We are confident that Frank and his team are diligent in following their high standards and working closely with Napa County Public Health," Shindle said.

Ken Frank, of LT Partners, which owns and operates the restaurant and bar in the hotel, said, "We have strict health standards in place, and we are cooperating fully with Napa County Public Health to identify the source of the virus."

Many hotel guests interviewed Thursday said they were vaccinated against hepatitis A and were surprised food service workers are not required to be vaccinated. CDC officials said food handlers do not need hepatitis A vaccinations because outbreaks are rare and food workers are not at an increased risk because of their jobs.

The Westin also issued the following statement Thursday:

"Our guests' health and safety is most important and we took all appropriate precautions when we learned of the diagnoses. There have been no known cases involving hotel guests or customers at the two establishments."

Hepatitis A typically is transmitted through person to person contact or more commonly through ingesting contaminated food or drink. Children or adults who have not had hepatitis A or gave not received two doses of the vaccine are at risk of getting hepatitis A.

Anyone who might have been exposed is urged to be particularly thorough in hand washing after using the bathroom and before preparing food.

Anyone who works with food or work or attends childcare or school settings should stay out of work or school for seven days after symptoms start.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, clay colored bowel movement joint pain and yellowing of the eyes or skin.

Symptoms start on average 28 days after exposure but may occur 15-50 days after exposure.

The disease can be mild and last a few weeks to severe lasting several months, Napa County Public Health said

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