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Health Officials Say Source of Hepatitis Outbreak May Never Be Pinpointed

September 21, 1985

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) _ The source of a hepatitis outbreak that sickened at least 69 people at the city’s most luxurious hotel may never be pinpointed, health officials say.

All of the 63 workers and six guests who contracted Type A hepatitis ate at the Hilton Inn between July 29 and Aug. 9, said Dr. Matthew Cartter, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health Services.

Officials suspect the hepatitis virus was transmitted in food served in an employee cafeteria, Cartter said Friday. No city residents using the same water supply have become ill and two food handlers in the cafeteria had been diagnosed as possible carriers of the disease.

″We may never figure out what the source of the contamination was,″ Cartter said. ″Most of the employees ate at the cafeteria every single day. It’s especially hard four or five weeks after an event for people to remember what they ate.″

Symptoms of the illness include yellowing of the skin and eyes, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains and fever. The illness is rarely fatal and has no long-term health consequences, officials say.

″It’s a self-limiting disease,″ said Cartter. ″It usually lasts about two weeks. You recover from it and you never get it again.″

Danbury Health Director William P. Quinn, noting blood tests that showed no sign of the disease in eight hotel workers or former guests considered at risk, said Friday the outbreak apparently had ended.

One of the food handlers identified as a possible carrier was diagnosed as having hepatitis on Aug. 23. The other handler told officials last week that he had had infectious hepatitis previously.

The virus that causes the disease is found only in human feces and is killed by heat, said Cartter.

In a hotel environment, he said, there is only only one way hepatitis can be transmitted: ″It’s got to be feces to hands to food.″

Cancellations at the Hilton Inn are ″above average,″ manager Richard Koscher said.

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