Hepatitis A has struck again at a local restaurant - this time Riverbend Grill in Post Falls.
A food handler at the restaurant was positively diagnosed with the flu-like virus, and as many as 300 customers may have been exposed, according to the Panhandle Health District.
The exposure would have occurred after 5 p.m. on Jan. 9, 12, 16 and 17.
But a shortage of immune globulin, which can prevent hepatitis A, means that not all exposed customers can get the shot.
The health district has only about 100 doses of immune globulin now, said nursing supervisor Marie Rau.
“We have the possibility of getting a little bit more, but we don’t know how much more,” Rau said.
For now, the health district will administer shots to people whose immune systems already are compromised (such as people taking chemotherapy), or people who have a pre-existing liver condition that cannot tolerate disease.
The district also recommends that people who have an increased possibility of passing the disease to others come in for shots, such as preschool or infant care providers, health care workers and other food handlers.
Customers at the restaurant have less than a 3 percent chance of getting the disease. Other employees and family members of the food handler have a higher risk, however, and have been given the shots, Rau said.
The owner of the Riverbend Grill is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.
While immune globulin is in short supply nationwide, the health district does have ample hepatitis A vaccine, which can prevent illness before exposure. Unlike immune globulin, the vaccine won’t necessarily prevent the disease after exposure, but health officials said it might provide some protection.
The Riverbend Grill case comes on the heels of a hepatitis outbreak in Spokane, where more than 50 people have been diagnosed with the disease. As many as 20,000 people were believed to have been exposed after two food handlers at Players and Spectators restaurant in the Spokane Valley came down with the virus.
Some people came to the Panhandle Health District for immune globulin shots after being exposed in Spokane, but because of the health district’s extremely short supply of the medicine, they were sent to Spokane.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SHOTS People who ate at Riverbend Grill on Jan. 9 can get an immune globulin shot at the health district from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. today. Those who may have been exposed on Jan. 12, 16 or 17 can receive shots between 5 and 7 p.m. Monday, if immune globulin is available.