Owners of a Roanoke, VA, restaurant chain have closed one location and are filing bankruptcy for two others in relation to a deadly hepatitis A outbreak that swept through the community this past fall.

At least four people have died, more than 50 were sickened and 36 people were hospitalized in the outbreak associated with an infected employee who worked at three Famous Anthony’s locations. An infected person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear. 

Attorney Andrew Goldstein said the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing allows the company to reorganize and remain open. In 90 days, the company owners will submit a plan outlining a payment schedule for the people who have claims against their restaurants.

In a public statement on behalf of the owners, Goldstein said:

“Famous Anthony’s has had the privilege of serving this community for over 35 years. This unforeseen hepatitis A exposure at two of our restaurants has impacted many in our close knit community including many loyal customers, employees and their families. In an effort to provide adequate compensation for those affected by the exposure and to preserve the jobs of the dedicated Famous Anthony’s team members, Famous Anthony’s at Oak Grove Plaza and Williamson Road have each filed voluntary Chapter 11 petitions with the bankruptcy court for the Western District of Virginia. This allows restaurants to operate as usual while also giving them an opportunity to reorganize their business and meet their obligations. Business generated over this time will enhance the outcome of these goals. As always, Famous Anthony’s appreciates the support of their staff, patrons and the community, and hopes to continue serving this community for many years to come.”

Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler who currently represents more than two dozen people who were sickened from or died in the outbreak has long advocated for restaurant owners and other foodservice operators to vaccinate their employees against the virus.

About hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection. The virus is generally spread when people come into microscopic amounts of stool from an infected person through food, drink or an object. The disease can also be spread through close contact. It can be prevented by vaccination.

Typical symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear.

Hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination. Hepatitis A vaccine has been recommended for school children for many years, and one dose of the vaccine has been required for entry into kindergarten and first grade since 2014. Most adults are likely not vaccinated but may have been if they received vaccinations prior to traveling internationally.

Editor’s note: Bill Marler of the Marler Clark law firm is the publisher of Food Safety News.

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