Bengies Cleared as Source of Worker's Hepatitis

Times Staff Writer

County officials this week gave Bengies restaurant in Glendale a clean bill of health, six weeks after a waitress there was found to have hepatitis A.

Health officials said the waitress did not contract the disease at the restaurant and that it had not spread to other employees or the public. As a precaution, more than 5,300 customers received inoculations of gamma globulin, a blood serum that helps prevent hepatitis A. And most of the restaurant's 90 employees, 25 of whom have been laid off as a result of declining business since the scare, have been inoculated.

"Bengies was never considered a high risk," said Dr. Shirley Fannin, associate deputy director of communicable control for the county Health Services Department.

Six weeks is considered the maximum incubation period for the infectious liver disease, which normally incubates in one month, health officials said. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, they said.

Meanwhile, Bengies' owners have launched a public relations campaign aimed at winning back customers who feared contracting the disease at the 24-hour restaurant at 1000 S. Brand Blvd. According to Wendy Furth, who is coordinating the campaign, business at the coffee shop has dropped 80% since the hepatitis was discovered.

"It's been down. But it's beginning to come back slowly," Donna Snyder, wife of owner Gary Snyder, said of the restaurant's business. "We are beginning to show an increase each week."

Donna Snyder said she could not release the name of the employee who had contracted the disease. She said the worker, who left her job when she became ill, had not been rehired because the restaurant's business was down.

Between Jan. 10 and Jan. 30, 5,317 people who had eaten at the restaurant went to the Glendale Health Center for gamma globulin shots, Fannin said. The inoculation, consisting of concentrated antibodies prepared from human blood, is most effective within the first two weeks of exposure to the disease.

Fannin said many other customers received the shots from private doctors and at other clinics.

The disease can be transmitted through the hands to uncooked foods such as doughnuts and salad, Fannin said.

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