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February 7, 2024

Maine CDC reports possible hepatitis A exposure at 2 Westbrook restaurants

An employee of two restaurants in Westbrook was found to have contracted hepatitis A and may have exposed others to the highly contagious liver disease in recent weeks, state health officials said Tuesday afternoon.

While infectious, the employee worked at Legends Rest Taproom and Paper City BBQ on the following dates: Jan. 14, Jan. 17-21, Jan. 24-28, Jan. 31 and Feb. 2-4.

Both eateries are located at 855 Main St. in downtown Westbrook.

Anyone who dined at the restaurants or ordered takeout during these days could be at risk for contracting hepatitis A, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a news release. The restaurants are cooperating with the agency, the release said, and there is no concern about ongoing exposure or exposure at other times.

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus, and if untreated can cause jaundice, abdominal pain, fever, fatigue and acute liver failure. The disease spreads when someone unknowingly ingests the virus — even in microscopic amounts — through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink.

People exposed to hepatitis A can avoid getting sick if they receive a vaccine for the disease within 14 days of exposure. The hepatitis A vaccine is a two-dose series. After one dose, at least 94 out of 100 people become immune to the hepatitis A virus for several years, the CDC said. Getting the second dose ensures long-term protection.

Cases of hepatitis A in Maine have remained elevated since an initial increase in 2019, according to the CDC. In 2022, case counts in the state grew 28% over the previous year's total, although the number was still relatively small — 64. Maine's incidence of hepatitis A on a per capita basis is far above the national level.

For more information about hepatitis A and vaccination, the Maine CDC recommended visiting a website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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