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Hep A Possible Exposure Warning at Paragould Ironhorse Barbeque

Health Dept. warns of possible Hep A exposure in Paragould

PARAGOULD, Ark. – The ADH is warning of a possible hepatitis A (hep A) exposure after an employee of the Ironhorse Barbeque, at ­­2108 Linwood Dr. in Paragould, tested positive for the virus.

Hep A is a contagious liver disease that can be prevented by a vaccination.

Anyone who ate at this facility from July 25 to August 10 should seek vaccination immediately if they have never been vaccinated against hep A or are unsure of their vaccination status.

There are no specific treatments once a person gets hep A. Illness can be prevented even after exposure by getting the vaccine or medicine called immune globulin. This medicine contains antibodies to hep A and works best if given within two weeks of exposure to the virus.

Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek care immediately.

Typical symptoms of hep A include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months, and can occasionally cause death.

“This restaurant worked proactively with the ADH by encouraging vaccinating to their employees prior to this potential exposure,” said Dr. Dirk Haselow, State Epidemiologist. “ADH is not aware of any ongoing risk in this restaurant at this time. Risk of getting hep A in a restaurant setting is low. Restaurants must follow ADH protocols for handwashing and glove use.”

Vaccine will be available this week in Greene County at the following public clinics:

  • Tuesday, August 14 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Greene Co. Health Unit at 801 Goldsmith Rd. in Paragould.
  • Wednesday, August 15 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Paragould Community Center at 3404 Linwood Dr. in Paragould.
  • Thursday and Friday, Aug.16-17 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Eastside Baptist Church at 529 East Court Street in Paragould.

The vaccine will be provided to the public at no cost. People should bring their insurance card and driver’s license if they have one.

The ADH continues to encourage all Greene County residents who are age 19 to 60 to get vaccinated for hep A and wash their hands thoroughly and often. The ADH strongly encourages all food handlers to be vaccinated against hep A in both Greene and Clay Counties to protect against spread of the virus. 

Since February, 85 cases of hep A have been reported as part of an outbreak in Northeast Arkansas, including one death. Greene County has had the most cases, although there have been cases in Clay, Craighead, Independence, Lawrence, Mississippi and Randolph counties.

The ADH is focusing on vaccinating 19 to 60 year olds because all of our current cases are in that age range. Many children are already vaccinated for hep A, and many adults over 60 have developed immunity to hep A through previous exposure to the virus. High priority groups for getting the hep A vaccine include:

  • Anyone who has had close contact with someone who has hep A
  • Food workers
  • People who use drugs, whether injected or not
  • People experiencing homelessness, transient, or unstable housing
  • People who have been recently incarcerated

The hep A vaccine is safe and effective. Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hep A virus, which is a different virus from the viruses that cause hep B or hep C. It is usually spread when a person ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person.

A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear. The virus can cause illness anytime from two to seven weeks after exposure. If infected, most people will develop symptoms three to four weeks after exposure. Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms. Almost all people who get hep A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months.

The older a person is when they get hep A, typically the more severe symptoms they have. Other risk factors for having more severe symptoms of hep A include having other infections or chronic diseases like hep B or C, HIV/AIDS or diabetes. Up to one in three adults are typically hospitalized. Death due to hep A is rare, but is more likely in patients with other liver diseases (like hep B or C).

For more information about hep A and updated information about the outbreak in Arkansas, please visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.

Ironhorse Barbeque released a statement on their Facebook page Monday evening following the announcement that one of their employee's, a bus person, has tested positive for hep A. 

Read the full statement below:

As our loyal customers know well, our goal at Ironhorse Barbeque Company is to make each and every meal we prepare and serve a special one. And that we do, which is how our restaurant and catering operations have built a reputation for excellence going on 16 years. We are forever indebted to you and all of the other folks who have contributed to the success and popularity of Ironhorse Barbeque & Catering, and want you to be assured that your well-being is our foremost concern – that and tasty, mouthwatering food.

Recently, we discovered that one of our employees – a bus person – was diagnosed with hepatitis A. This is something we take very seriously, and appreciate that such a diagnosis can be quite worrisome to you and the rest of our diners. Of course, because your safety and good health are our priority, we wanted to get in front of this issue by way of this announcement.

Cutting to the chase, the chances of you having contracted hepatitis A in our restaurant from the employee in question is highly, HIGHLY unlikely. The bus person was not a kitchen worker or a server and had NO food handing responsibility whatsoever. This is crucial to know because the virus is spread-at least in the context of foodservice- by consuming food or drink that has been handled by an infected person. Again, the bus person did not handle or have control of any of our customers’ food or drinks while on the job other than to gather it after consumption.

Having said that, you can be confident that Ironhorse Barbeque & Catering is a safe and spotless place to eat, even more so now that we’ve implemented proactive measures to ensure that we will never be confronted with a hepatitis A scare going forward. All of our existing employees have been appropriately vaccinated and, as a matter of policy, all new employees will require vaccinations prior to beginning work at the restaurant. Truth be told, we may be the only eatery in town with such strict health mandates.

When you come to Ironhorse Barbeque & Catering, you’re guaranteed a great meal- whatever it is you order. Rest assured, we promise to serve you that meal in an environment that is as pristine as our food is delicious.

All our best,

The Aronson Family & The Ironhorse Crew

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