GREAT RIVER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Suffolk County Health Department is trying to reach hundreds of people who may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, an assistant bartender at the Farmingdale restaurant Trento has the infectious hepatitis A virus, the health department said. People who drank beverages there July 19, 23, 26, 29 or 30 may have been exposed.

Sara Smith was among dozens of patrons who have received a free Hepatitis A vaccination from Suffolk Health Services, where doctors were standing by on Friday.

When asked if it made her nervous, Smith said, “A little, but you know, once you read up on it, you realize it’s not that dangerous.”

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken reported that the assistant bartender at Trento helped garnish drinks for several hundred customers on the July dates before she became ill with nausea, fever and diarrhea – the symptoms for Hepatitis A – and tested positive.

“It’s important to distinguish — hepatitis A is not hepatitis B and C,” Tomarken said. “This is a self-limited, acute illness people recover from and are immune from further infections, and generally is a mild illness.”

Tomarken’s health team inspected the restaurant and has given the all-clear. No other staffers got sick, and so far, no patrons have either.

The disease is spread hand to mouth from poor bathroom hygiene.

“So if we can prevent somebody from getting sick, we have to give the immunoglobulin or the vaccine within two weeks of the last exposure,” said Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, Suffolk County Director of Public Health.

Emails and notifications were going out Friday to those who drank beverages at Trento on the specified dates. Hepatitis A vaccines can help prevent or lessen the severity of the flulike symptoms.

“We are just getting the vaccine to be on the safe side — not overly concerned, just as a precaution,” said restaurant patron Patricia Lewis.

“It wasn’t their fault. Obviously, they reached out quickly, so that is a good thing,” said restaurant patron Donald Brown. “Let’s hope it doesn’t go any further than that.”

“It was a business lunch. I saw the email about this — figured I’d be prudent and get checked,” said restaurant patron Gary Arnold.

The restaurant owner was devastated and apologetic, saying his waitress showed no signs of illness while working.

“We are open for business,” said Trento owner Emilio Branchinelli. “I know customers are nervous, but please come back, because it’s safe. And my reputation is on the line. so everything is turned up over here; everything is clean.”

Hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin is being offered to people who had beverages at Trento on July 29 or July 30. It’s available from noon to 7 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the health department office at 3500 Sunrise Highway, Building 200, Suite 124 in Great River.

Preventive treatment isn’t recommended for people exposed before July 29. Others should see a doctor if they become sick, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.

The virus causes liver inflammation. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Symptoms usually appear within 28 days of exposure.

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