(Customers of Hawaii Sea Restaurant stand on line outside Herbert H. Lehman High School for a free shot from the Department of Health.--Photo by David Greene)
By David Greene
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 22- Hundreds of patrons of a popular Westchester Square restaurant have been immunized after an outbreak of hepatitis A that has so far sickened four customers and one employee.
Officials from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOH) ordered the New Hawaii Sea Restaurant, located at 1475 Williamsbridge Road, closed on September 19, after the outbreak came to light.
The following day an alert was issued for customers of New Hawaii Sea, who ate there between September 7 and September 19, urging them to get a free hepatitis A Vaccine.
One customer who declined to be identified, drove up to the restaurant to read the signs posted on the businesses front door, before driving the half-mile to Herbert H. Lehman High School where the free shots were being offered.
The customer who has been a frequent visitor of the New Hawaii Sea for the last 25-years, recalled, "I ate there twice in the last month. I got an alert on facebook and heard it on the news. Actually, it's one of the better restaurants around here."
When the restaurant's B letter grade on its front window was pointed out to the customer, he responded, "I never noticed the rating. The place seems to be clean, the service is good and the portions are a very nice in size... it's shocking."
On September 21 officials from the DOH were back at New Hawaii Sea re-inspecting the restaurant as several hundred customers waited for over an hour for the free shot, just a short drive away.
The official said the business could be back open after enough food handlers at the restaurant could be immunized--possibly in time for the Saturday night dinner crowd.
The DOH alert stated, "Hepatitis A is spread by eating food (even though it may look clean) that has been contaminated by an infected person. Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea."
DOH Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told reporters, "If people experience symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately. This incident serves as an important reminder to always wash your hands thoroughly before handling food to prevent the spread of disease."
"I love Hawaii Sea," another 25-year customer of the Chinese and Japanese eatery stated after exiting Lehman High School, adding, "It happens." The woman laughed after declaring, "I'll be back."
A third customer who waited 90 minutes for his shot was asked if he'd return, the man responded, "Probably not."
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus and is spread when trace amounts of fecal matter of an infected person is ingested. There is currently no treatment once a person is infected but the disease can be prevented with a vaccine within 14 days of exposure.
Officials say that hepatitis A is fatal in fewer than 1 percent of all reported cases.
On September 22 an employee of the New Hawaii Sea stated that the business, "will be closed for a few more days."