Pizza shops issue hepatitis A warnings in Wayne, Oakland counties

Hepatitis A warnings are starting to mount, there are now two new warnings, involving restaurants in Wayne and Oakland counties.

So far there have been no reports of any customers contracted hepatitis A from these restaurants, which are open and cooperating with their local health departments. But health officials say they cannot overstate the need for people to get vaccinated.

The two locations: Papa Romano's on Nine Mile and Telegraph in Southfield and Paul's Pizza in southwest Detroit are the latest restaurants affected by the hepatitis A outbreak in southeast Michigan after lone employees for both pizza joints were diagnosed with the virus a few weeks ago.

The Oakland County and Detroit health departments are urging people who ordered food from the pizza joints from Nov. 22 to 26 for Papa Romano's and Nov. 20 to 25 for Paul's Pizza, to get vaccinated before the end of the week.

It takes about two to seven weeks for symptoms to appear.

"The signs and symptoms are similar to flu symptoms," said Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County Health Division. "Nausea, diarrhea, dark urine. Generally, it is followed up by jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes.

"It is generally spread person to person with someone who is infected or close contact with someone who is infected with hepatitis A."

At Paul's Pizza, a manager noticed their driver was not feeling well. He sent him home, sanitized the restaurant and they later called the Detroit Health Department after learning the worker contracted hepatitis A.

"Our drivers really do not handle or come into direct contact with food," said John Grossi of Paul's Pizza. "They deliver it but they don't come into direct contact with it which helps minimize the risk to the community and the co-workers. 

The Detroit Health Department says generally the risk of an infected worker transmitting the virus is low. Papa Romano's employees received vaccinations after their co-worker went down with hepatitis A.

Both restaurants have been in full compliance with their respective health departments since learning of their employees' diagnoses.

Health officials have confirmed reports of the virus at restaurants in Grosse Pointe (Champs, Cabbage Patch Café), Ann Arbor (Cardamon), Detroit (McDonalds midtown) and the Greektown Casino among other places.

The state of Michigan opened a coordination center to stop the spread of hepatitis. It has claimed 18 lives since August of 2016.

"There is an outbreak in southeast Michigan," said Stafford. "That's why we're encouraging everyone to get ahead of this and get vaccinated or at least check with your doctor to see if you should get vaccinated."

Health officials are encouraging restaurants to make sure employees wash their hands often especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food. You can avoid contracting hepatitis A if you are vaccinated within 14 days after being exposed to it.

The virus normally sticks around for about a month and again it typically takes two to seven weeks for symptoms to appear. If you believe you were exposed, you want to reach out to your doctor or your local health department. Both the Oakland County and Detroit Health Departments offer vaccinations. 

The Detroit Health Department will be offering hepatitis A vaccines to uninsured Detroit residents at both of its immunization clinics: 

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

The clinics are located at: 

The Samaritan Center, 5555 Conner Street Detroit, MI 48213, (313) 410-8142

The Family Place, 8726 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202, (313) 410-7803.

In Oakland County the hepatitis A vaccine is available through some healthcare providers and many pharmacies. Call ahead to ensure your provider of pharmacy has the vaccine available. 

Vaccines are also available at both health division offices in Pontiac and Southfield at the following addresses:

North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34 East, Pontiac

South Oakland Health Center, 27725 Greenfield Road, Southfield.

Hours are noon to 8 p.m. on Mondays and 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Pre-payment and registration are not available at these walk-in clinics.