SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -

A restaurant worker tested positive for hepatitis A, a contagious virus that is transmitted by ingestion of infected food and water.  The Springfield-Greene County Health Department says any customer at the Red Robin restaurant on South Glenstone Avenue in Springfield from May 8 - 16 is at risk and needs to get vaccinated. 

At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Health Department director Kevin Gipson said Red Robin managers have been cooperative since their employee tested positive for hepatitis A.  All employees have been vaccinated since the diagnosis.  Health department inspectors found the restaurant had no health code violations related to the employee who was sick.

Red Robin estimates it had about 5,000 customers between May 8 and May 16.  The health department has ordered 4,000 doses of vaccine and it should arrive here from Memphis on Thursday morning.

A free clinic for Red Robin customers in that eight-day period to get vaccinated is scheduled for Thursday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Remingtons at the northeast corner of Republic Road at Kansas Expressway.  Gipson said people should not panic and go to a hospital emergency room, but should wait until Thursday or another day this weekend to get a shot.

The symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and discolored urine.   The incubation period for that disease is 28 - 30 days.

Gipson said this is the most serious public health threat in Greene County in about 20 years.  In 1997, customers of another well known restaurant in Springfield were notified that they might have been exposed, and the health department had immunization clinics for them.

Many thousands more customers could have been exposed to the virus because the infected employee worked for Red Robin for several months.   It's too late for customers before May 8 to get vaccinated, because the vaccine would have no effect on them, but they should be watching for symptoms.  If those people do come down with hepatitis A, they'll have to let the disease run its course because there is no cure for it.  The good news for them, however, is they'll be immune from ever getting hepatitis A again.

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Edited news release:

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is alerting the public about a potential local health threat and outlining plans in place for people affected.

The department has been notified of an individual recently diagnosed with hepatitis A who had been working at a local restaurant while possibly contagious.  Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can result in sickness ranging from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe symptoms lasting several months.  This infection is easily transmitted from person to person in a food service environment.

We have been in contact with our healthcare partners to alert them to the situation and review proper vaccination protocols.

Out of an abundance of caution, the Health Department recommends that people who ate at Red Robin, 3720 S. Glenstone Ave., from May 8 to May 16 should contact their healthcare providers.

While the Health Department considers this a significant health threat, an important thing to remember is that people are now commonly vaccinated for Hepatitis A.
For those not previously vaccinated, the Health Department has set up a vaccination clinic which will take place at Remingtons, 1655 W. Republic Road. 

While this clinic will be open to the public, the Health Department recommends people who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems to visit their doctor for guidance.  Vaccinations will be provided starting Thursday from 11 to 6 and continuing Friday from 7 to noon.

Mercy will also offer vaccinations at the Smith Glenn Callaway Clinic, 3231 S. National Ave., from Saturday to Monday from noon to 4.

Symptoms of the illness include:

  • fever,
  • fatigue,
  • loss of appetite,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • abdominal pain,
  • dark urine,
  • clay-colored bowel movements,
  • joint pain, and
  • jaundice.

The department set up a hotline from people to call if they have questions.  It is (417) 829-6200.  It will be staffed from:

  • 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday;
  • 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday;
  • 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

We will also update our website at health.springfieldmo.gov as more information is available.