Celebs hoping to avoid the Hepatitis A-List

February 24, 2008 6:05:30 PM PST
Hundreds of patrons of a posh Manhattan hot spot, including A-list celebrities who attended actor Ashton Kutcher's 30th birthday party there, may have been exposed to hepatitis A, health officials said. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offered free vaccines through Sunday to anyone who had been to Socialista in the West Village during the city's Fashion Week this month, after a bartender there was found to have the infectious disease.

More than 700 people, including celebrities who attended Kutcher's bash, may have been exposed to the liver disease, health department officials said. Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ivanka Trump and Madonna reportedly attended the event. It wasn't clear whether any celebrities had been vaccinated.

"I just can't believe that in a restaurant as fancy as it was, that they would have this problem," said James Trinko, 29, after he received a vaccination Saturday. "It's kind of a pain in the butt to come out here and deal with this." But "you have to do it."

Trinka was one of a slow trickle of patrons who showed up at a nearby school for the vaccination.

The hepatitis A virus is found in fecal matter. If someone with the disease doesn't wash his or her hands properly and handles food or drinks, the virus can be spread.

The Socialista bartender, whose name was not released, handled glasses and garnishes, and there was no soap behind the bar, said health department spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti.

The disease is rarely fatal, she said, and recommended that people be vaccinated within two weeks of exposure.

"Most people recover within a few weeks with bed rest and avoiding alcoholic beverages," she said.

Symptoms include jaundice, which is the yellowing of eyes and skin, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. No medication or antibiotics exist to treat the disease.