Hundreds of people who recently ate dessert at the high-end Alta Restaurant in Greenwich Village, New York City, got vaccinated for hepatitis A this weekend after the city Health Department warned on April 5 that they could have acquired the virus via an infected food handler, according to published reports.
Nearly 240 people, including 31 Alta employees, received hepatitis A vaccines at a city health clinic Saturday and Sunday after they ate dessert at the top-rated Mediterranean bistro between March 23 and April 2, a Health Department official said Monday morning.
“We are asking these restaurant patrons to get this vaccination as a precautionary measure,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a statement. “If people experience symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately. This incident serves as an important reminder to always wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of disease.”
Alta manager Manny Solano said a pastry chef contracted the virus while traveling in Mexico. She realized she was ill on Monday, he said, and is now feeling better.
On Friday, the Health Department and Alta's owners reached out to customers known to have eaten at the restaurant, which they estimated to be about 3,000 people, officials said.
The restaurant's owner, Christopher Chesnutt, estimated that as many as 450 patrons may have eaten dessert over the course of the two weeks.
Hepatitis A is spread when fecal matter is inadvertently eaten, the Health Department said. The disease, which targets the liver, can cause jaundice, fatigue, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea, health officials said. Most people who contract the virus recover completely, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“We are working closely with the Health Department to ensure the safety of our customers,” Chesnutt said in a statement. “This is an isolated incident and the infected employee is no longer on premises.”
Alta offers a romantic bistro atmosphere and 11 different desserts, including dark chocolate "liquid" truffles for $7. The restaurant garnered an "extraordinary" rating from Zagat.