Montco restaurant closed amid investigation into deadly Hep A outbreak; 11 cases under investigation

Officials said 11 total cases are under investigation, with nine confirmed cases of Hepatitis A and two potential cases.

Saturday, January 8, 2022
Montco restaurant closed amid investigation into Hep A outbreak
Montgomery County officials are investigating a hepatitis A outbreak possibly connected to a Montgomery County restaurant.

WEST NORRITON TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Montgomery County Department of Public Health on Friday released the name of the Italian restaurant possibly linked to a deadly Hepatitis A outbreak.

Gino's Ristorante & Pizzeria in West Norriton will be closed until further notice while the investigation continues, officials said.

Health officials said 11 total cases are under investigation, with nine confirmed cases of Hepatitis A and two potential cases. Of the nine confirmed cases, seven people were hospitalized. To date, one death is confirmed and one additional death is under investigation.

The front window of Gino's now has a yellow sign that states the establishment is closed by the Montgomery County Department of Health.

"This can be a deadly disease but it's extremely rare with only about 1% having that deadly liver failure that comes as a consequence," said Dr. William Surkis with Main Line Health. "For most people, it is a passing infection and people recover it."

The investigation suggests the exposure occurred in late November, but the source of the outbreak remains under investigation. Anyone experiencing symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their doctor.

However, Gino's Ristorante & Pizzeria is saying they are not the source of the outbreak. A statement from the restaurant's attorney said the claims are "false."

"There has been an unfounded rumor circulating that Gino's caused a Hepatitis A death. This is false. The Montgomery County and Pennsylvania Health Departments have inspected our restaurant and found no evidence of any airborne or transmittable disease; approved the cleanliness of our facility; approved our refrigeration and hot water temperatures and did not cite us or our suppliers for any violation in connection with their investigation. None of our staff has been ill; we have followed all COVID protocols; and none of our customers have contacted us about any food issues. We have been in business for over 50 years and in this location for almost 15 years. We pride ourselves on our outstanding reputation for excellent Italian food and we hope that you will not be influenced by false rumors. We ask our loyal customers to please give us the names of the persons spreading this maliciousness so that we can take the appropriate legal action to stop this madness. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the departed. We cannot and will not take responsibility for something we did not cause."

During its last inspection at the end of December, Ginos received no violations, but according to health inspection reports, the restaurant has been cited for poor food handling and storage among other violations within the last few years.

Food suppliers and other aspects of the business are being investigated.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health provided this information on hepatitis A:

"Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable, liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) ranging in severity from mild infection lasting a few weeks to severe disease lasting several months. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill."

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A can include the following:

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Dark urine

  • Clay-colored bowel movement

  • Joint pain

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

This is the latest hepatitis A warning from health officials in the Delaware Valley in recent years.

In November, a Starbucks in Camden County, New Jersey was the center of a hepatitis A investigation.