The state health department reports that customers who have eaten at the Zaxby's for 3 days in May at the Tanger Outlet in North Charleston may have been exposed to hepatitis A.
On Friday, DHEC was notified that an employee of the restaurant had tested positive for the virus. People who ate at the restaurant between May 20 and May 23 may have been exposed to it.
State epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, said the risk of the virus spreading from the infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low. She emphasized that it is not a foodborne outbreak. A food handler tested positive for the virus.
"As a precaution, in these situations, vaccination should be considered for individuals who were exposed during the time the food handler was contagious," Bell said.
If a customer has not been vaccinated, DHEC suggests post-exposure vaccination. The department explains that vaccination can be given within two weeks from the date the customers ate anything from Zaxby's.
"Tanger, LLC (doing business as) Zaxby's is committed to the health and safety of all guests and maintains high food safety standards, including requiring all food handlers to wear gloves. With such safety measures in place, the risk of transmission is extremely low," a Tanger, LLC statement read. "Additionally, there have been no reported cases of food service transmission of Hepatitis A in South Carolina."
Customers are advised to consult with their pharmacy or medical provider for treatment. Customers can also visit the Northwoods Public Health Clinic at 2070 Northbrook Boulevard in North Charleston from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"Tanger, LLC (doing business as) Zaxby's takes this situation seriously and is working closely with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control," the statement continued. "In an abundance of caution, Tanger, LLC mandated vaccinations for all employees at this location to continue working in the restaurant."
The owners of the Zaxby's restaurant are not affiliated with Tanger Outlets.
The restaurant received high marks on its most recent health inspection, according to the statement, and that the premises has been fully sanitized.
In general, customers should look out for symptoms like nausea, diarrhea , belly pain, vomiting or yellowing of the eyes and skin. Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus of the same name. It is contagious. Most people that get it will feel ill for several weeks. But most recover without lasting liver damage.
The possible exposure follows a hepatitis A outbreak announced by the department back on May 13. It was based on an increased number of cases.
Previous guests to this Zaxby's location may contact the restaurant group at 866-892-9297.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Zaxby's restaurant and Tanger Outlets are not affiliated.