UPDATE: Third death reported in hepatitis A outbreak linked to restaurant chain

UPDATE: Late in the afternoon, public health officials reported that a third patient has died in this outbreak. No other details were released about the patient.

Another person has died from an outbreak of hepatitis A among customers at a restaurant chain in the Roanoke, Virginia area.

State officials confirmed the death today but declined to release the name or other details in order to protect the privacy of the victim and his family. The adult woman is the second person to die in the epidemic.

The outbreak sickened 49 people, with another person infected through contact with one of the direct patients of the outbreak. An unusually large number of patients have been hospitalized, 31 having been admitted. Health officials said some of the patients were discharged from the hospital.

“A small number of cases are still under investigation. No new cases have been reported to RCAHD (Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts) this week, ”according to a statement released today. “It is devastating that we have seen a high rate of serious illness associated with this epidemic. “

All of the sick people except the secondary patient ate at one of Famous Anthony’s three restaurants at 4913 Grandin Road, 6499 Williamson Road or 2221 Crystal Spring Ave.

An employee who worked at the three restaurants from August 10 to 27 tested positive for the virus, which causes an infection that attacks the liver. One of the victims received a liver transplant.

The cousin of the transplant patient reports that the operation took place on the weekend of October 16-17. The patient’s husband and daughter were also infected, according to the cousin.

Christie Wills of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts says there is likely no continuing threat to public health as the incubation time for the virus has expired. Usually, it can take up to 50 days for symptoms to appear.

Additional patients could be identified if there are sick people who have mild symptoms that worsen and see a doctor. Area health care providers are on alert to monitor people with symptoms. Symptoms can include jaundice: yellowing of the skin or eyes, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light stools, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A person can be contagious for up to two weeks before showing symptoms. As a result, the infected restaurant employee could have unknowingly infected customers. The virus is preventable by vaccination.

Patients in the outbreak tended to be older people, but according to an Oct. 21 statement from the health department, patients tended to be younger people between the ages of 31 and 79 at the time.

The first patient to die, James Hamlin, and his wife Victoria frequently ate at one of the Famous Anthony’s restaurants involved, according to local media.. He died on October 8 at the age of 75. He was a Vietnam War veteran.

“His daughter, Dana Heston of Cave Spring, said Hamlin was a strong, healthy man. He worked out three times a week: lifting weights, riding a stationary bike, and walking. He had no serious health problem ”, according to the Roanoke Hours. Victoria Hamlin was also infected but is recovering.

The health department offered a vaccination clinic to other employees of Famous Anthony’s restaurants. Free vaccines are available to the public at the Roanoke Health District office.

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