Mount Rogers Health District Reports Possible Hepatitis A Restaurant Exposure

May 6, 2020

Media Contact: Breanne Forbes Hubbard, population health manager, Mount Rogers Health District,, 276-759-8297

Mount Rogers Health District Reports Possible Hepatitis A Restaurant Exposure

(MARION, Va.) – The Mount Rogers Health District reports that an employee at Taco Bell, located 153 VA-107, Chilhowie, has been diagnosed with hepatitis A. As a result, persons who ate food from this restaurant from April 14 – April 30, 2020 may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

“Individuals who ate food from Taco Bell in Chilhowie during that time and who have not been previously vaccinated for hepatitis A or have not previously had the disease are recommended to receive the hepatitis A vaccine,” said Karen Shelton, M.D., director of the health district. “This may help prevent, or lessen the severity of, illness. The vaccine works best if given within 2 weeks of exposure and may not prevent infection with Hepatitis A for all, but it can help protect many who have been exposed.”

“Taco Bell in Chilhowie has always been compliant with safe food handling practices, and has been very cooperative in dealing with this situation,” stated Dr. Shelton.

“When our franchisee of this Chilhowie, VA restaurant learned that one of the team members was diagnosed, they immediately started working with Taco Bell and health officials to protect the health of employees and customers.  The restaurant was thoroughly sanitized and all team members will be offered vaccinations,” said  a Taco Bell Quality Assurance Food Safety Manager.

Free hepatitis A vaccine is available at the Smyth County Career and Technology Center, 147 Fox Valley Road, Marion, on Friday, May 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Due to COVID-19 precautions, this will be a drive-thru event. All participants must wear face coverings and remain in their vehicles. No appointments are necessary.

After this event, vaccine will be available at the Smyth County health department. Call 276-781-7460 or for another health department near you, visit

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. The classic symptom is jaundice: yellowing of the skin or the eyes. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. It is important to contact your medical provider if you have symptoms of hepatitis A infection. It is also very important for people who have symptoms to stay home from work, especially if they work in food service, health care or childcare.

“Exposure to hepatitis A virus may occur through direct contact with an infected person or by consuming food or drink that is contaminated, and symptoms may develop from 15 up to 50 days following exposure,” said Julia Banks, district nurse epidemiologist for the Mount Rogers Health District. “Persons are at increased risk if they have been in close and continuous contact with an infected person, particularly in a household or day care setting.”

Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Routine vaccination reduces the risk of this disease and is available to anyone.

Virginia was declared an outbreak state for Hepatitis A in April, 2019.  Surrounding states are also experiencing Hepatitis A outbreaks. The vaccine is available from health care providers, including some pharmacies and travel clinics.

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