Hepatitis A Outbreak: Westchester Square Pizzeria Contamination Leaves Local Eateries Fighting Stigma

Oct 25, 2013 02:57 PM EDT | By Dina Exil

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A Hepatitis outbreak at a Westchester Square pizzeria, has its neighboring eateries dealing with the side effects.

The New York Daily News reported that several eateries near the still-shuttered New Hawaii Sea restaurant, which closed last month after five patrons caught Hepatitis A, say they're stuck dealing with the stigma of the virus.

Ljubo Kocovic, who opened his own pizzeria 28 years ago in 1985, said because of the Hepatitis scare, business has suffered.

"This is the slowest it has ever been. I've never seen an October like this," Kocovic said. "One guy has a problem, and we all suffer. It's very stressful."

Restaurant owner, Nilesh Patel of M&R Coffee Shop agreed.

"People are afraid to come," he said. "It's not fair. They made a mistake, they should have to pay the price."

Health officials urged anyone who ate at the resturant between Sept. 7 to Sept. 19 get tested for the disease, which was spread by eating food that has been contaminated by an infected person. Symptoms include jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea.

Officials said popularity dishes such as "sushi pizza," could be to blame for the outbreak. The city vaccinated close to 2,000 people at nearby Herbert H. Lehman High School, with wait times reaching three hours.

New Hawaii Sea was considered  a "neighborhood institution" and businesses in the area were reportedly surprise to hear of the news. 

"People were shocked," said Jorge Huertas Jr., 35, a local bartender. "It's been there longer than I have been alive."

Two groups will invite local restaurateurs to learn how to keep their customers safe at a health forum next week.

Accroding to the Daily News, New Hawaii Sea said the owners have plans to reopen. 

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