MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - As fajitas sizzled Wednesday on the grill inside Maya's Mexican Bar and Grill in Palm City, workers took extra precautions in the fight against the deadly outbreak.
"We all come together and we clean and we also make sure we use gloves constantly, make sure everything is clean and disinfected with Clorox," said Ariana Lopez, who works at Maya's on SW Martin Downs Boulevard.
Signs are posted in the kitchen, workers are wearing gloves as they prepare food, and the boss has offered to pay for all of his employees to get vaccinated since hepatitis A is spread person to person and through contaminated food. "I would say they don't need to be scared to go out and eat," Lopez said.
Martin County remains at high risk with 19 confirmed cases of hepatitis A, and three people have died from the contagious liver disease.
"The investigation continues and it's ongoing and I think it's important to note the investigation may go on for awhile," said Renay Rouse, the public information officer for the health department in Martin County.
That's why the health department is stressing prevention, and it will be extending its hours to offer the vaccine free of charge for under-insured and uninsured adults, and the high-risk population. The office is located in Stuart at 3441 SE Willoughby Blvd.
"On Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., we're actually extending our hours to encourage people to come in and get the vaccine. We're doing that because we want to make it available to everyone who wants it, and often times people are working during the day and they're unable to come in, so the evening gives then that opportunity to do that."
Restaurants in the area have taken a hit, but Maya's is reminding people it's going above and beyond the safety requirements.
"It has been a little bit slow, but the more we talk to customers we make sure that they know what's going on and what we're doing to prevent it," Lopez said.
The Florida Department of Health has launched an information line, email box and a website to address general questions about hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis A, Information Line: 1-844-CALL-DOH (1-844-225-5364) available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Website: www.Floridahealth.gov/hepa
- Email questions: HepA@flhealth.gov