Mary MuellerOct 26, 2017, 3:09 pmOct 26, 2017, 10:05 pm

Clinic plans to vaccinate up to 3,000 after hepatitis exposure at bartaco

Health officials say 3 known cases have been linked to the Mexican restaurant

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WHITE PLAINS — Westchester health officials plan to give out thousands of free vaccinations after a bartaco employee possibly exposed 3,000 customers to Hepatitis A.

Healthcare workers at the Westchester County Center in White Plains are inoculating anyone who has eaten at the restaurant after an employee tested positive for the illness on Wednesday.

Gabriele Briggs who lives in the area was shocked to hear that a sick employee was handling food at the trendy waterfront Port Chester restaurant.

“It’s very popular. It’s humming all the time,” Briggs said.

Hepatitis A is easily spread when people don't wash their hands.

"Generally, Hepititas A is a mild disease, but in rare instances it can be fatal," Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler said.

Dr. Amler says the vaccine is only effective two weeks after exposure, making it necessary for anyone who ate or drank at the restaurant on Oct. 12 to get the vaccine immediately. Customers who ate there from the Oct. 13 to the 23 still have time to be inoculated.

Symptoms of hepatitis can include fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite. Any of these signs of illness is enough for anyone who went to bartaco from Aug. 22 to Oct. 11 to see a doctor.

Health Commissioner Dr. Amler says inspectors were sent to the restaurant last Tuesday after two customers who ate at the restaurant tested positive for hepatitis, but the inspectors couldn't find the source.

More than a week later, the Health Department got word that an employee was ill and the restaurant voluntarily closed Wednesday to sterilize everything.

"They had an industrialized company to clean and wash all the surfaces with bleach," Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said.

On Thursday, two health inspectors cleared the restaurant to reopen.

Employees were also taken to the clinic to be vaccinated.

Astorino says the restaurant will screen all employees before each shift and must be vaccinated to go back to work.

A health inspector will also remain on site for the foreseeable future.

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