VERO BEACH, Fla. — Pizza Mia said its business saw the impact almost immediately after an employee tested positive for hepatitis A a last week.
Peter Schaeperkoetter said business has fallen by approximately 75 percent over the weekend. And now both Schaeperkoetter and customers are asking people to get vaccinated and educated.
"This can happen to anybody in the restaurant business," said Bob Puglio. "It’s the best sliced pizza in town."
On Monday, Puglio bought a slice of pizza and purposely ate outside to publicly show support for the owner.
"I don’t like ignorance," said Puglio. "All this is ignorance. And unfortunately, they’ve got a lot of prank phone calls from what I understand."
Schaeperkoetter said it’s the most difficult thing he’s had to deal with after 45 years in the restaurant industry. The Florida Department of Health said an employee who worked for him for four days tested positive for hepatitis A. The new hire who mainly cleaned tables and answered calls hasn’t been in the restaurant since.
"It’s a national problem, it’s epidemic," said Schaeperkoetter. "It’s an epidemic and people have to realize that."
The hepatitis A case has also raised questions about cleanliness.
Indian River County restaurant inspections over the last two years show Pizza Mia was cited for nine violations under the handwash sinks, handwashing supplies, and handwash sign category. Schaeperkoetter said those violations have been corrected and they are not tied to the hepatitis A case.
"If anything was serious enough they would have closed our doors, and rightfully so," said Schaeperkoetter. "We had every agency down here from southern Florida to Tallahassee."
Schaeperkoetter said the worker that tested positive for hepatitis A is out of the hospital but has not returned back to work. That worker may have exposed customers to the contagious virus between July 19 and July 23, health officials said.
Pizza Mia customers should monitor for the following symptoms:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Dark urine
- Pale white stools
- Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
Anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek medical attention right away.
Last week, the Florida Surgeon General declared a Public Health Emergency for the state because of hepatitis A. That designation allows Florida to receive more resources to combating the spread of the virus.
For more information about hepatitis A in Indian River County, call 772-794-7475, or click here.