Hepatitis scare at Grand Lake restaurants: Who needs to get shots?

It was one of those moments when the personal and the professional collided. On Friday, my wife and I were in Grand Lake when a summer storm passed through -- so we took refuge at Max & T's Bar and Grill, where we ate a delicious lunch. Then, the next morning, I opened up my Denver Post to discover that the Grand County Public Health Department was urging patrons of two Grand Lake restaurants to get shots due to a hepatitis scare -- and one of those eateries was Max & T's.

Most news junkies in these parts associate hepatitis with Kristen Parker, the hospital worker convicted of passing the ailment to patients. But that was hepatitis-C, which, as noted on this Banner Health page, is passed via blood -- or dirty needles, in Parker's case.

The brand of hepatitis in Grand Lake? Hepatitis-A, which "almost always gets better on its own," according to Banner Health. But it's also a notably nasty illness. The GCPHD release below describes common symptoms as "mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine and jaundice (yellowness of eyes or skin)."

The release recommends shots for Max & T's patrons who ate at the establishment between July 26 and 30. But what about those of us who unknowingly stumbled in a week later? Would there be any benefit to getting jabbed? Nowell Curran, public information officer for Grand County's Office of Emergency Management, answers in the negative.

"Those dates have been thoroughly investigated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment," she says. "They've really isolated down the exposure time for prior food prep and the times when the employee [who tested positive for hepatitis-A] was at the facilities. If you ate there before or after those dates, you're not recommended to get the vaccination."

Still, getting a hepatitis-A shot "is a good idea" in a general sense, "especially if you're an international traveler," Curran says.

I don't think I'm ready for that yet. My trip to Grand Lake will do me for a while. Here's the aforementioned GCPHD release:


Grand County Public Health announced that a case of hepatitis A in a food worker employed at two Grand Lake, Colorado restaurants, Sagebrush BBQ & Grill and Max & T's Bar and Grill, has been confirmed. Both restaurants have had very good records of inspections in the past and both are cooperating in the investigation. There are no other confirmed cases of hepatitis A at this time.

People who ate at Max and T's between July 26-30, or Sagebrush BBQ and Grill between July 24-Aug.3, may be at risk for developing hepatitis A and should receive an injection of immune globulin (IG) or hepatitis A vaccine within 14 days from the date they ate there. People who only consumed dessert or beverages at either restaurant do not need immunizations. Exposed patrons may obtain the immunization during Grand County Public Health clinics scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. & Sunday Aug. 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The clinics will take place at Grand Lake Elementary school, 301 Marina Drive.

If you have received the hepatitis A vaccine series, you do not need to be revaccinated.

People who ate at one of the restaurants during these dates who are not currently in the Grand Lake area are urged to contact their state or local public health department or their health care provider to obtain necessary shots.

Immune globulin and/or the hepatitis A vaccine can prevent infection if given within 14 days of exposure. People between ages 1 and 40 can receive hepatitis A vaccine; infants and people over 40 should receive immune globulin.

Workers at both restaurants were immunized with hepatitis A vaccine on Thursday as a precaution.

People who ate at these restaurants between July 10 and 23 may have been exposed but would not benefit from the immunizations because immunizations must be given within 14 days of exposure. These people should watch for signs of hepatitis A and contact their health care provider if they develop illness.

Early signs of hepatitis A appear 2-6 weeks after exposure. Symptoms commonly include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine and jaundice (yellowness of eyes or skin).

The disease varies in severity, with mild cases lasting two weeks or less and more severe cases lasting 4-6 weeks or longer. Some individuals, especially children, may not develop jaundice and may have an illness so mild it can go unnoticed. However, even mildly ill persons can be highly infectious. Persons with symptoms suggestive of hepatitis should consult a physician immediately, even if symptoms are mild.

Hepatitis A virus is spread as a result of fecal contamination (fecal-oral route) and may be spread from person to person through close contact or through food handling. The virus is commonly spread by contaminated food or beverages. Persons are at increased risk of acquiring hepatitis A when they have been in close and continuous contact with an infected person.

For more information, please see the CDC website at or call COHelp -- 1-877-462-2911.