State health officials are warning former customers to contact a health care provider to determine if an immunization is needed after a food handler at a Cartersville restaurant was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

An investigation found that an employee of Willy’s Mexicana Grill worked while infectious with the disease May 31 through June 17 at the restaurant at 100 Main St. in Cartersville, stated a news release from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

"It is relatively rare for restaurant patrons to become infected with hepatitis A virus due to an infected food handler, but anyone who consumed food or drink at Willy’s Mexicana Grill during the time period should contact a health care provider to determine if a hepatitis A immunization is needed to prevent the disease," the release stated.

Free hepatitis A immunization is available at the Bartow County Health Department, 100 Zena Drive in Cartersville, it stated.

The release stated anyone who consumed food and/or drink at the restaurant on the dates that employee worked is also asked to:

• Monitor their health for symptoms of hepatitis A infection up to 50 days after exposure.

• Wash their hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food.

• Stay at home and contact their health care provider immediately if symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop.

Careful hand washing, including under the fingernails, with soap and water, along with vaccination of anyone at risk of infection, will prevent the spread of this disease.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and light-colored stools.

Yellowing of the skin or eyes may also appear. People can become ill up to 50 days after being exposed to the virus.

Hepatitis A is acquired when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person, the release stated.

The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase risk of infection.

For more information on hepatitis A, visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.

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