A hepatitis A outbreak that has hospitalized several people has been linked to a Long Beach steakhouse, health officials said.
As of Monday morning, eight cases of the infectious disease have been confirmed in individuals who dined at the 555 East American Steakhouse on or around Christmas Eve, according to the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.
The source of the illness is still under investigation, but diners who ate at the restaurant around that time may have been exposed and should seek medical attention if they become ill, health officials said.
Hepatitis A affects patients’ livers and can cause fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine and jaundice — a yellowing of the eyes or skin.
“We are notifying the public of the exposure so that people can immediately seek medical care if they begin to develop symptoms,” Dr. Anissa Davis, Long Beach’s health officer, said in a statement. “Individuals who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A or have had the disease are protected. Those who are not immune to hepatitis A should consult their medical provider if they develop symptoms, and let their provider know they may have been exposed to hepatitis A.”
Staff and management at the steakhouse are cooperating with the health department to prevent further infection, officials said, and the restaurant does not pose a public health risk at this time.
“Our highest priority is food safety, food quality and unsurpassed service,” said Kelly Ellerman, a spokeswoman for the restaurant. “The report from the Health Department does not indicate anyone who dined in our restaurant or any employee who works in our restaurant were a direct cause of this hepatitis A outbreak.”
Hepatitis A symptoms can appear two to seven weeks after exposure, health officials say, and usually develop over several days.
The disease can be spread through contaminated food and water or be transmitted from feces to mouth.
While practicing good hygiene, such as hand-washing, can help avoid potential infection, health officials also recommend getting vaccinated against hepatitis A.
“People over 50 tend to be more at risk because they’re generally not immune, not vaccinated,” said Emily Holman, communicable disease controller for the city of Long Beach. “That’s a big one for hep A.”
Long Beach’s announcement followed news of an outbreak in San Bernardino County, where health officials said there have been 42 confirmed cases since the start of last year.