Long Beach public health officials reported a recent hepatitis A outbreak in a downtown restaurant on Friday, Feb. 7.
The city confirmed seven cases of the disease by early Friday in people who ate at 555 East American Steakhouse, 555 E. Ocean Blvd., on or around Dec. 24.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services said the investigation is ongoing and the number of confirmed cases could change. Other people who ate there around that time may have been exposed, but the restaurant does not currently pose a risk to customers.
“Our highest priority is food safety, food quality and unsurpassed service,” Kelly Ellerman, a spokeswoman for the restaurant, said in an email. “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.
“We are fully cooperating with the Health Department at this time,” Ellerman added.
Health officials said the source of the outbreak is still under investigation.
“We are notifying the public of the exposure so that people can immediately seek medical care if they begin to develop symptoms,” City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis said in a statement. “Individuals who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A or have had the disease are protected.”
Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver and — unlike the more serious hepatitis B and C — can be transmitted through contaminated food or water. Symptoms usually begin appearing four weeks after exposure and include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, dark urine, nausea and jaundice.
While folks can contract hepatitis A from close person-to-person contact, including sexually, it is not as common a cause as with hepatitis B and C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B and C also have the potential to cause chronic infections — 75-85% of those newly infected with hepatitis C develop such infections, the CDC said — while hepatitis A does not.
Those who contract hepatitis A usually recover completely, but sometimes the disease can lead to hospitalization and severe illness. People who could be at risk of developing more serious complications include people above age 50 and those with other liver diseases, said Emily Holman, the city’s communicable disease controller.
Still, people with symptoms should consult with their medical provider immediately and avoid going to work, officials said, especially in the food service, healthcare or childcare industries.
In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 6,700 new hepatitis A infections, according to the CDC; there were more than triple the number of new hepatitis B infections and nearly seven times the number of hepatitis C cases.