On April 5, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene warned the public that a restaurant employee in Manhattan’s West Village was infected with the hepatitis A virus. The employee’s job at the Alta tapas restaurant involved handling sweets. The health department offered free vaccinations to 239 restaurant patrons over the April 5 weekend, because anyone dining at Alta tapas from March 23 to April 2 could have been exposed. Thirty-one of the 239 persons receiving vaccinations were restaurant employees. Alta tapas restaurant thinks that approximately 3,000 people ate at the restaurant during the time frame, and 15 percent of them—450 people—ordered dessert.
The health department did not indicate whether there was specific evidence that the virus was in the food. As of April 5, the health department stated there were no confirmed cases; however, health officials advise any patrons who ordered desserts during that time frame to get a precautionary vaccination.
Hepatitis A is rarely fatal, although those with a weakened immune system or liver disease could require hospitalization. According to the health department, New York City experiences an average of 65 yearly cases of hepatitis A, with one or two cases in food handlers. The restaurant owner stated on April 5 that the infected employee was no longer "on the premises."