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Red Robin Employee Contracts Hepatitis A, Vaccines to be Administered

Director of Health for Springfield-Greene County Kevin Gipson addresses the media Wednesday/Credit: Scott Harvey

Vaccination clinics are planned in Springfield after officials detected a case of Hepatitis A in a local food service employee.

Director of Health for Springfield-Greene County Kevin Gipson says thousands of doses of vaccine have been ordered to protect against the viral infection and are expected to arrive Thursday morning.

“We never take the public’s health for granted, so we have scheduled a couple of clinics for people who have eaten at the Red Robin restaurant on South Glensone anytime between May 8 and May 16,” Gipson said.

As many as 5,000 people may have visited the establishment during that time period. Gipson says the vaccine can work up to 14 days after a person may have been exposed.

Hepatitis A infects the liver and can result in sickness ranging from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe symptoms lasting several months. The Health Department says it can easily be transmitted from person to person in a food service environment.

During a press conference Wednesday, Gipson says officials are still unclear on how the male Red Robin employee contracted the illness. Neither his name nor age was released.

“The person that was there was sick with diarrhea and vomiting; so if they didn’t use proper hand washing and then handled a dish or a salad or whatever and then a person came in contact with it the possible spread that exists.”

Gipson added that health officials have worked closely with the business, interviewing managers, inspecting the building, and immunizing employees.

“And I can tell you if we thought there was any risk that restaurant would not be open for business now – it is open for business. We’re very confident that they’re doing everything possible. They were just the luck of the draw that they had a worker that didn’t report the symptoms that they were having and continued to work while they were having these symptoms; putting the public at risk,” said Gipson.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain,dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice.

There have not been any other confirmed cases of the illness, Gipson said Wednesday.

In a statement, Red Robin said they were informed on May 19 that an employee had contracted Hepatitis A and immediately contacted the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. The worker has not been at the restaurant since May 16, “and will not return to work until they have been granted medical clearance.”

The release went on to state, “It is company policy that team members who are ill, or showing signs of illness, should call out sick and not report for work,” and that the business “took all safety measures to ensure the well-being of our guests and team members including arranging the inoculation of all Springfield team members with the immune globulin prophylaxis shot.”

Gipson says when he first arrived in Springfield in 1994 there were over 100 Hepatitis A cases. Over the last five years, the county has averaged one case per year.

The clinics will begin Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Remingtons along West Republic Road, and then continue from 7 a.m. to noon on Friday. Mercy will also offer vaccinations at the Smith Glenn Callaway Clinic at 3231 S. National on May 24-26 from noon to 4 p.m.

Gipsonadvises citizens not to go to the Emergency Room, but rather to utilize the clinics. Anyone with questions can contact the Springfield-Greene County Health Department at 417-829-6200.