An East Side restaurant that closed voluntarily after one of its employees contracted hepatitis is open for business, its owner said at a news conference Thursday.
“We’ve been here for you, now we hope you’re here for us,” Destiny's owner Thomas Childs said.
On March 12, the Erie County Health Department announced that a cook at Destiny's may have exposed coworkers and hundreds of patrons to hepatitis A while working at the restaurant between Feb. 9 and March 11. Childs subsequently voluntarily closed his business for 48 hours.
Destiny's serves roughly 100 patrons on weekdays and twice as many on weekends.
Kara Kane, a Public Information Officer with the Erie County Health Department, told The News that Destiny’s “owners have worked with our epidemiology department to make sure all of its employees were vaccinated.” She said the restaurant has had multiple inspections this month and has "cooperated fully" and "corrected all violations.”
At Thursday's news conference, Masten Councilman Ulysees Wingo urged patrons and the public not to punish Destiny's for "an employee who came to work ill wanting to make sure they were able to put food on the table of their own family."
He said the restaurant handled the matter by the book, saying: “This does not reflect the practices of Destiny’s ... it highlights the integrity of Destiny’s.”
Wingo: “We cannot blame Destiny’s for an employee who came to work ill wanting to make sure they were able to put food on the table of their own family.
“This does not reflect the practices of Destiny’s ... it highlights the integrity of Destiny’s.” pic.twitter.com/WsCN6S9jHK
— Keith McShea (@ByKeithMcShea) March 21, 2019
The Erie County Health Department held free vaccination clinics in the days following the announcement for those who might have been exposed. The county had received word of the potential hepatitis A exposure on March 11 and scrambled to alert the public the following day, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at the time.
The restaurant's workers were in the process of being vaccinated at the time of the announcement.
Hepatitis A is a disease marked by fatigue, poor appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, jaundice and dark urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease typically runs its course within a few weeks to a couple of months. Symptoms often occur about four weeks after exposure, according to the CDC. Most children under the age of 6 are symptom-free.
Antibodies produced in response to the hepatitis A infection last for life.
Hepatitis A is typically transmitted when people eat or drink products that have been contaminated by small amounts of feces from someone already infected with hepatitis A, or in some cases, have sex with someone who is infected. This disease is more common in developing countries with poor sanitation and is not transmitted through casual contact.
Children have been routinely vaccinated against hepatitis A since 1994.
This hepatitis scare was an example of a growing number of hepatitis cases in Erie County since 2017. When this case was announced, it was the sixth hepatitis A case confirmed by the county. There were 32 last year, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. Burstein encouraged all adults who have not yet been vaccinated against the virus to become vaccinated.
The infected restaurant worker was diagnosed with hepatitis A on the morning of March 11, Burstein said.
Health Department sanitarians who subsequently inspected Destiny's restaurant found 10 "noncritical" violations. Most were immediately addressed, Burstein said.
Childs said Thursday that he knew it would take some time for the business to recover from the hepatitis scare.
“But we’re going to make it through," he said. "We’re going to make it happen.”