Restaurants with a hepatitis A-infected employees are 'safest places in the city to eat,' health officials say

The hepatitis A outbreak continues to spread across Louisville, as 304 people have now been diagnosed.

Employees at 13 restaurants or grocery stores in the area have been diagnosed with hepatitis A. The latest is Mark's Feed Store on Shelbyville Road and Panera Bread on Rudy Lane.

Bearno's Pizza on Westport Road found out last week it was among those thirteen

This is “a massive health issue in our city,” Owner George Timmering said. “[Business] has slowed down a little bit but not dramatically."

In an ironic twist, officials with Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness say the restaurants you've heard about in the news are now among the safest in the city.

“There is a certain level of chlorination they have to use in order to clean restaurants,"  said Dr. Lori Caloia, Louisville Metro Health Department Medical Director. 

After the initial scrub down, restaurants that had infected employees are kept under close watch by the health department. Doctors say this is just an added precaution. They say they haven't seen a single food-borne transmission of hepatitis A during this outbreak, which instead is centered on people who are homeless or use drugs.

“So far, we haven't seen any transmission from any food workers that have been infected,” Caloia said.

Timmering has still required all his employees to get vaccinated and would like to see all other restaurants do the same.

“Because of our thriving restaurant community, the mayor, the metro council, I'd like to see someone step up and require every single employee of every restaurant in the city as a condition of employment to have the shot,” Timmering said.

The health department provides vaccinations for the restaurant employees at the Bearno’s location on Westport Road. Bearno’s will cover the cost of vaccinations for Bearno’s employees at other locations, as well as customers who visited the Westport Road location from April 8-22. Customers will be reimbursed if they present proof of a purchase during that time. 

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