Maine reported three hepatitis A cases to the federal government in a three-week period this fall – at a time when the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention was looking into a case of exposure at a restaurant. But state officials say the three cases are unrelated.

Weekly disease reports to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Maine reported one case of hepatitis A during the week of Oct. 12-18, and two additional cases the week of Oct. 26-Nov. 1. A person infected with hepatitis A worked at an unidentified Cumberland County restaurant, potentially exposing patrons between Sept. 29 and Oct. 11, according to a Maine CDC public health alert released on Oct. 30.

No other cases of hepatitis A were recorded in Maine this year, according to the report. The last cases occurred in 2013, including one in November and two in December. Those reports also came in the wake of a public health alert, after a worker at a church supper in Durham was discovered to be infected. John Martins, spokesman for the Maine CDC, said none of the three 2013 cases was connected.

While the church in the 2013 case was identified, the Maine CDC has refused to name the restaurant in this year’s incident.

This week, the Maine CDC denied the Portland Press Herald’s Freedom of Access Act request for the restaurant’s name. Cumberland County has more than 1,000 restaurants, according to the Maine Restaurant Association. Portland officials have confirmed the restaurant wasn’t within city limits.

Public health experts have criticized the Maine CDC for refusing to name the restaurant, pointing out that there’s a public health benefit to doing so. Hepatitis A symptoms often mimic other seasonal diseases, such as the flu, and people who fall ill may not consider that they have contracted hepatitis A, Dr. Dora Anne Mills, who was director of the Maine CDC from 1996 to 2011, told the Press Herald last week.

She has said that if people who dined at the restaurant knew, they could monitor their symptoms and catch the disease in the early stages, when treatment is most effective.

Mills has said when she was director, the place that an infectious disease exposure happened would be disclosed unless there was a fool-proof way to track down attendees, such as at a wedding reception.

Martins has given two reasons for not releasing the restaurant’s name. He said it’s not necessary to do so because the Maine CDC found out about the case more than 14 days after it occurred, which is too late to host a hepatitis A vaccine clinic for those possibly exposed to the virus. In the 2013 Durham church supper case, less than two weeks had elapsed, and the Maine CDC hosted a vaccine clinic.

In an official denial letter to the Press Herald’s public records request, Martins wrote that naming the restaurant could potentially identify the individual who had the disease, and Maine law protects patient privacy. Martins did not respond to a question by the Press Herald asking how the person could be identified by naming the restaurant.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by one of five viruses. Hepatitis A, one of the viruses, is present in the feces and usually transmitted by consuming contaminated food or water or by direct contact with an infected person.

Infections cause symptoms such as jaundice – a yellowing of the skin or eyes – as well as other symptoms that resemble the flu, including extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

Hepatitis can be prevented by vaccination. Rates of hepatitis A and hepatitis B have been falling in the United States consistently, according to the U.S. CDC.