For the second time in two months, an Ocala food service worker has tested positive for hepatitis A.

The Florida Department of Health in Marion County announced Tuesday that an employee at Charlie Horse Restaurant and Lounge, located at 2426 E Silver Springs Blvd., may have been infectious from July 18 to Aug. 1. That follows a similar incident in June involving a food service worker at Zaxby’s, located at 6033 SW Highway 200, testing positive for hepatitis A.

A food service worker employed at Charlie Horse Restaurant and Lounge was determined to be suffering from hepatitis A by the Florida Department of Health in Marion County.

The hepatitis A vaccine may provide protection against the disease if given within two weeks after exposure. Therefore, the hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for anyone who ate or drank at the Charlie Horse Restaurant and Lounge between July 24 and Aug. 1.

Those who consumed food or beverage there between July 18 and July 23 should instead watch for signs and symptoms of hepatitis A infection. This includes sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, pale white stools, or yellow skin and eyes (jaundice). Anyone experiencing these symptoms should promptly seek medical attention.

If you previously have received the hepatitis A vaccine or have a history of a hepatitis A infection, you are considered immune to the virus and do not need to take additional action.

Those with specific questions about exposure to hepatitis A at Charlie Horse Restaurant and Lounge can call (352) 644-2633 to reach the DOH-Marion Epidemiology staff.

DOH-Marion is encouraging all healthcare providers, including hospital emergency departments, to stay on high alert and immediately report cases of hepatitis A, as well as identify those who would benefit from vaccination.

Contact your county’s health department for hepatitis A vaccinations if you live outside Marion County. Vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A. People who should be vaccinated for hepatitis A include:

  • All children at the age of 12 months;
  • People who are experiencing homelessness;
  • Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not;
  • Men who have sexual encounters with other men;
  • People with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A;
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common;
  • People with chronic / long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C;
  • People with clotting-factor disorders; and
  • Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common.

DOH-Marion continues to offer the hepatitis A vaccine at no cost and without an appointment at its Ocala office, located at 1801 SE 32nd Ave., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Residents also can get vaccinated for hepatitis A for free at the following locations and times:

  • Saturday, Aug. 10, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Florida Department of Health in Marion County (1801 SE 32nd Ave., Ocala); and
  • Saturday, Aug. 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Horizon Academy (365 Marion Oaks Drive, Ocala).

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver. People infected with hepatitis A are most contagious from two weeks before onset of symptoms to one week afterwards. Not everyone who is infected will have all the symptoms. Symptoms usually start within 28 days of exposure to the virus, with a range of 15 to 50 days. Symptoms can include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing skin and whites of eyes)
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue/tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Pale or clay-colored stool.

The hepatitis A vaccine is the best method of preventing infection. People who are exposed to hepatitis A may be given the vaccine or immune globulin within 14 days of exposure to prevent infection. No medicines can cure the disease once symptoms appear.

People with hepatitis A symptoms should seek medical care immediately. Most people get better over time but may need to be hospitalized. Previous infection with hepatitis A provides immunity for the rest of a person’s life.

Go to Marion.FloridaHealth.gov or call 352-629-0137 for information about DOH-Marion.

The Charlie Horse Restaurant and Lounge was shut down for a little more than three days in March after a health inspector found 11 violations in the eatery, according to report on file with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations states. That closure was not related to the employee who was discovered to be suffering from hepatitis A.