ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke Valley health officials issued an alert on Tuesday following a new report about an employee at a Star City restaurant being infected with hepatitis A.

The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts (RCHAD) says the report came in on Monday, May 23 involving an employee at Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje in the 400 block of Salem Avenue in Roanoke.

According to the RCAHD, an environmental health team was dispatched to the eatery to conduct a comprehensive inspection and interview key personnel. The restaurant’s management team is fully cooperating with the investigation.

Based on the inspection and interviews, health officials say they determined there is no significant risk of exposure to the public since the employee in question did not directly handle any food.

However, given the high level of sensitivity to the current hepatitis A outbreak in the community, the Roanoke City Health Department is offering hepatitis A vaccines, as a precaution, to anyone who ate at Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje between May 3 and May 15.

The hepatitis A vaccines will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Roanoke Health Department on the second floor of 1502 Williamson Road on the following dates:

  • Thursday, May 26 from 3 to 6 p.m.
  • Friday, May 27 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m.

This news comes about a week after the health districts announced a potential hepatitis A exposure at Luigi’s Restaurant in Roanoke.

 “While we are saddened to announce another case connected to a current hepatitis A outbreak in our area, we believe this potential exposure is low risk for the public. Still, the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all, and may be available through your provider or pharmacist. Individuals who are uninsured or underinsured are encouraged to reach out to RCAHD local health departments for vaccine opportunities,” said Dr. Cynthia Morrow, health director of the RCAHD.

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. Anyone who is not currently vaccinated against hepatitis A is encouraged to get the vaccine, which is available from many healthcare providers, health clinics and local pharmacies and is part of routine childhood vaccination series.

Exposure to hepatitis A virus may occur through direct contact with an infected person or by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated. Symptoms may develop 15 to 50 days following exposure. People 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 has experienced widespread outbreaks of hepatitis A across the Commonwealth, and vaccination is recommended for everyone.

Statement released on May 24, 2022 by the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts

According to the RCAHD’s public heath update from Tuesday, May 24, which is included below, 58 cases of hepatitis A have been reported within the districts since Jan. 1. While two of those people are employees at restaurants identified within the past two weeks, health officials say substance use disorder — more specifically, injection drug use — is the most commonly identified risk factor in this outbreak.

To learn more about hepatitis A, check out the Virginia Department of Health’s website.