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Lehi cook has hepatitis A: 30 get shots

More than 30 people received immune globulin injections Saturday after a cook at Main Street Diner was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

The cook reportedly began getting sick several days ago, although he continued to work and wasn't diagnosed until Thursday. Once it was discovered that the cook had hepatitis A and that food he prepared may have exposed customers to the disease, Main Street Diner voluntarily shut down for a couple of days."As soon as I found out about it, I said, `Let's close down and clean up,' " said owner Ron Peck.

The Utah County Health Department issued a statement warning Main Street Diner customers of the possibility they might contract hepatitis A. However, health officials did not force the restaurant to close its doors.

Peck said everything in the diner was disinfected Friday, and it reopened for business Saturday morning. All employees and many customers who ate at the diner between Sept. 19 and Oct. 2 received immune globulin injections from county Health Department officials.

"Our concern is that it's transmitted fecal-oral," said Lynn M. Flinders, director of nursing at the Utah County Health Department. Flinders said hepatitis A may be transmitted by an infected person who does not wash his or her hands well after using the restroom.

"(Hand washing) is the key to stopping transmission," she said.

Main Street Diner posted a notice on its front door Friday alerting customers to the danger of contracting the disease, which can result in fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and malaise. Symptoms may continue for several weeks.

Peck said some customers didn't seem concerned enough about hep-a-ti-tis A to receive the injection, although health officials are urging anyone who believes they may have been exposed to call or visit them at the Health Department.

"When I found out, I was pretty nervous," said 16-year-old Crystal Dorton of Lehi. Dorton recently ate at Main Street Diner and also came into close contact with the infected employee, who is her boyfriend.

But Dorton and others who received the immune globulin have only a slim chance of getting the illness, Flinders said. Those who receive injections within two weeks of being exposed to hepatitis A usually don't become infected.

Health officials are unsure exactly how many people are at risk of contracting hepatitis A. Customers who ate uncooked foods, such as tomatoes or lettuce on a sandwich, at Main Street Diner are particularly at risk.

Hepatitis A cannot be spread through coughing, sneezing or breathing. Also, cooking food will usually eliminate the possibility of transmitting hepatitis A.