The Genesee County Health Department has recently been awarded a grant to provide the hepatitis A vaccine to food-service workers at NO COST to them or the employer.

In Western New York and across the United States, foodborne outbreaks of hepatitis A have occurred as a result of infected food-service workers.

Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans counties, understands the severity of hepatitis A and the effect it can have on a business and community.

“Hepatitis A is a serious issue because most food-service workers will spread the infection before even knowing they have the disease,” Bedard said. “A food-service worker can spread the virus to customers or other staff by contaminating surfaces, utensils and/or food, which can make unvaccinated individuals very sick.

“By offering the vaccine to food-service workers, we can prevent unnecessary illness from spreading in the community.”

Hepatitis A is a contagious (spreadable) liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A Virus (HAV). It is typically spread through the feces (poop) of infected individuals.

Someone can become infected by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated by feces as well as having close personal contact with a person who is infected, or use of injection and non-injection drugs.

The symptoms of HAV may include sudden onset of fever, loss of appetite, nausea / vomiting, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). HAV usually does not have signs or symptoms until the second week of infection and is the most infectious during this time.

The good news is that hepatitis A can be prevented through vaccination!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine has a 94- to 100-percent efficacy rate.

The hepatitis A vaccine is a two-dose series that is administered six months apart. As the vaccine is not required to attend school or daycare, many people have not received it.

Currently three local restaurants have taken advantage of this opportunity for themselves and their employees who chose to receive the vaccine. The restaurants who have participated thus far have all expressed gratitude knowing their employees can protect themselves and their customers from the hepatitis A virus.

Any food-service worker employed in Genesee County can receive the vaccine.

By receiving the vaccine, you are also protecting yourself from getting the virus if you come in contact with dishes and/or utensils that may have been contaminated by a customer or coworker.

Restaurants that participate in this opportunity will receive a certificate honoring their commitment to protecting the health and safety of their workers and customers.

An employee at Steak ’n Shake in Columbia County reportedly tested positive for hepatitis A.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health and East Central Health District, the employee is not currently working at the restaurant on Belair Frontage Road and coworkers have been offered the vaccination.

The department said the public has a low risk of being exposed to the virus from food service employees due to standard sanitation practices. Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain and usually appear four weeks after exposure.

Environmental health staff are inspecting the restaurant to ensure safe food handling and preparation protocols are being followed, according to the department.

People who ate at the restaurant recently can talk to their health professional about receiving a vaccination.

The Franklin County Health Department is planning mass vaccinations after learning an employee who works at the Jack in the Box located at the Bourbeuse River Access in Union, Missouri had Hepatitis A while serving customers.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the employee handled food on June 9 and June 10.

Hepatitis A  is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, and stomach pain. It’s usually spread when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks that have been contaminated. Franklin County health officials have conducted several inspections of the Jack in the Box since the problem was discovered.

Health officials said it is uncommon for restaurant customers to become infected with Hepatitis A due to an infected food handler. However, anyone who consumed food or drinks at the restaurant on June 9 or June 10 is recommended to receive vaccination by June 23 as further protection from becoming ill.

Free vaccinations will be given out at the Franklin County Health Department headquarters at 414 East Main Street in Union on June 21 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and June 22 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Customers who ate at Popeyes on York Street in Aiken may have been exposed to hepatitis A, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. DHEC was notified on June 17 that an employee in the restaurant tested positive for hepatitis A, according to a press release. Customers who ate at Popeyes, located at 954 York Street, between May 29 and June 12 may have been exposed to the virus.

In addition, diners at Harbour Town Yacht Club, located in Sea Pines, could have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus in the past month, a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control news release says. DHEC was notified June 17 about an employee at the event venue who tested positive for the virus, a release says. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver virus. The employee worked at a social on June 8, a dinner on June 13 and a wedding party on June 14, the release says.

A food service worker at Village Pizza Restaurant in Spring Hill Florida has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, according to the Florida Department of Health in Hernando County (DOH-Hernando). Anyone who ate at the restaurant between May 29 and June 5 may have been exposed, according to DOH-Hernando officials. The restaurant is located at 4070 Deltona Boulevard in Spring Hill.

Health officials said the employee may have been infectious during those dates. Anyone who consumed food or drinks at the restaurant and has not been vaccinated for hepatitis A should consider getting vaccinated, they said. Those who have previously received the hepatitis A vaccine “does not need to take additional action,” according to a press release.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) identified additional cases of acute hepatitis A virus infection in Aroostook County. Close contacts at risk are already being notified. The only risk to the public identified by Maine CDC at this time involves a Presque Isle food service worker.

The Presque Isle case served food and drink while infectious on May 26, 2019 and June 2, 2019.

Maine CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine as post-exposure prophylaxis to anyone who ate or worked at the Mai Tai Restaurant in Presque Isle, Maine between 11:00am and 4:30pm on June 2, 2019. Exposed persons can receive post-exposure prophylaxis up to 14 days from exposure, after which the treatment is no longer effective. Anyone who visited the restaurant between 11:00am and 4:30pm on May 26, 2019 is outside the window for which prophylaxis is recommended, but they should watch for symptoms and seek medical attention should they develop symptoms.

Health care providers are encouraged to remain vigilant for hepatitis A infection in persons with consistent symptoms. All cases of hepatitis are reportable in Maine. Providers with suspected cases should report them to Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

People who ate at a local Taco Bell in mid-April may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

An employee at Taco Bell on 40976 U.S. Highway 19 North in Tarpon Springs tested positive for Hepatitis A, according to an email sent by the Pinellas County Health Department to the state.

The county also reported the employee worked at that Tarpon Spring’s Taco Bell during his infectious period from April 12 to April 14.

On April 17, the agency reached out to the Division of Hotels and Restaurants to conduct a joint investigation and food safety inspection.

When inspectors showed up on that day, the state found employees were not washing their hands.

According to the inspection report, the state also discovered there was no hot water in the hand wash sink in the men’s and women’s rooms and the soap dispenser was not working in the men’s room.

As health officials have warned, hepatitis A is spread when infected individuals do not wash their hands properly and contaminate food or surfaces they touch.

If you think you’ve been exposed to hepatitis A, medical experts recommend you get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The Pinellas County Health Department is offering free vaccines to anyone who wants one but the agency never told the public about the infected worker at Taco Bell.

A worker at a country club in Spring Hill may have exposed people, including high school students, to hepatitis A.

The Department of Health in Hernando County says someone working in food service at the Silverthorn Country Club Restaurant has tested positive for the disease.

Both Central and Springstead High Schools may have had their proms at Silverthorn during the dates in question, according to the school’s Facebook pages.

A vaccine can help protect you if you get it within two weeks and the health department is recommending anyone who ate or drank there during those dates should get one.

DOH-Hernando is also offering the hepatitis A vaccine for free at the Spring Hill location of the Health Department with extended hours May 1-3 and May 6-8 until 7 p.m.

From 2018 through May 1, 2019, there have been 41 confirmed cases of hepatitis A. In Hillsborough, there have been 165 cases. Pasco has reported 267 cases and Pinellas County has seen 319 cases.

Officials in Hernando County said 128 people came to get vaccinated at the health department after the Silverthorn case was announced.

Doctors suggest getting the vaccine if people exhibit the following symptoms: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Florida Department of Health said a restaurant worker in Clearwater has tested positive for hepatitis A. Now they are encouraging anyone who visited the Arby’s location to get vaccinated due to possible exposure.

A food service worker at the Arby’s restaurant, located at 30263 U.S. Highway 19 N, tested positive for the highly contagious disease, according to the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County.

Health officials said the individual worked at the restaurant between April 5 and April 20 and may have been infectious.

Anyone who visited the restaurant during that period of time should get the hepatitis A vaccination. Those who have previously received the vaccine do not need another one.

The Department of Health said the vaccine may provide protection against the disease if given within two weeks after exposure.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing skin and whites of eyes), fever, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, dark-colored urine, or pale or clay-colored stool.

A special hepatitis A vaccination clinic will be open at the Department of Health’s Clearwater location at 310 N Myrtle Ave. on Friday, May 3 until 7 p.m. and on Saturday, May 4, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Department of Health said it will continue to offer the hepatitis A vaccine at no cost and without an appointment at the following clinic locations on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.:

-St. Petersburg: 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N
-Pinellas Park: 6350 76th Ave. N
-Mid-County (Largo): 8751 Ulmerton Rd
-Clearwater: 310 N. Myrtle Ave
-Tarpon Springs: 301 S. Disston Ave

For goodness sake – vaccinate.

A case of hepatitis A has been diagnosed in an employee who handled food at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen located at 7777 Burlington Pike, Florence, Kentucky (within the T/A Truck stop facility).  An ongoing investigation of the facility found that this employee worked during a period of time when ill or infectious, which included the dates of March 17 through April 5.

While it is relatively uncommon for restaurant patrons to become infected with the hepatitis A virus due to an infected food handler, anyone who consumed food or drink at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen during the dates listed is recommended to receive a vaccination if it is within two (2) weeks of exposure as protection from becoming ill.  If it was during the dates listed but it has been longer than two weeks since the specific time you were there, it is recommended that you still get the vaccination although it will be outside the window to protect you from contracting the illness if you were exposed at this establishment.

Anyone who consumed food or drink at this Popeyes during the stated time period should monitor their health for symptoms of hepatitis A infection up to 50 days after exposure; wash their hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food; and stay at home and contact their healthcare provider immediately if symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop.

The establishment’s management is cooperating with the investigation and response activities.  It has implemented enhanced disinfection steps to address surfaces that may have been contaminated.  Employees who worked with the involved employee have been informed to get hepatitis A vaccination to protect against the virus.  Co-workers have a greater risk of exposure due to prolonged close contact with the case.  Vaccination of associated food service workers helps to protect them against infection, which further protects the public.  Handwashing and related hygienic practices have been reinforced with the restaurant management and employees.  Additionally, the Health Department has directed restaurant employees to self-monitor for any symptoms of Hepatitis A that may develop over the next 50 days.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown colored urine, light colored stools and diarrhea.  Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) may also appear.  People may have some or none of these symptoms.  It could take up to 7 weeks after being exposed to the virus for someone to become ill.  Children often do not exhibit symptoms.  Any person who believes they may have symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider.  Additional information regarding Hepatitis A can be found at nkyhealth.org.

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase risk of infection.  Careful hand washing, including under the fingernails, with soap and water, along with vaccination of anyone at risk of infection, will help prevent the spread of this disease.

New cases of hepatitis A have been trending downward over the past couple of months as local steps to control the outbreak have been making an impact.   However, Kentucky is still experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak.  Northern Kentucky has experienced 299 cases of hepatitis A in the outbreak thus far while Kentucky has experienced 4,381 cases.

As a result, the Northern Kentucky Health Department continues to encourage hepatitis A vaccination for the general public to protect against contracting the illness from any source of exposure.  Hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart. The first shot provides short-term protection and the second shot provides long-term protection. Although the vaccine is available at most doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and retail clinics, people should speak with their healthcare provider about wanting to get vaccinated. People with health insurance or Medicaid should be able to get the vaccine for free, but are recommended to check with their health insurance provider for coverage information.  NKY Health can also provide the vaccine at the county health centers to those on Medicaid, and on a sliding fee scale to those who do not have insurance, as well as those who have insurance that does not cover the vaccine.

For anyone who ate at the Western Sizzlin Restaurant in Ooltewah TN, around the time of March 10-20, 2019, they are advised to get their hepatitis A vaccine. The health department confirms that an employee of the restaurant worked during that time period in a food handling role while contagious with hepatitis A. Special vaccination clinics are being offered at 3rd Street, Sunday 3/24 1-6PM, Monday 3/25 8AM-6PM, and Tuesday 3/26 8AM-6PM, and at the Ooltewah health center Monday 3/25 8AM-6PM, and Tuesday 3/26 8AM-6PM. Additional protective measures, such as immune globulin injections, may be indicated for some people. For more information read below, or if you have any questions, please call the Epidemiology section at 423-209-8190.

The current number of cases (above) is significant because normally about 0 to 1 cases are reported to our Epidemiology section each year. We have to view this in light of the fact that both Middle Tennessee and other states around the country (Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Utah, and West Virginia) are experiencing outbreaks of hepatitis A. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department’s objective at this point in time is to take action to prevent the spread of the disease locally. Hepatitis A is vaccine-preventable and washing one’s hands before eating, preparing food and drink, or after changing diapers is one of the best ways to protect oneself.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection.
What are the symptoms?

Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.
What are the major risk factors?

Those considered at high risk for hepatitis A infection in the larger Middle Tennessee outbreak include:

  • People who abuse drugs
  • People experiencing homelessness, and
  • Men who have sex with men.

Get the safe and effective hepatitis A vaccine, available from any of our clinics for free to those who are in the high risk groups.

Wash hands frequently and thoroughly before eating, before preparing food or drinks, and after changing diapers.

Avoid recreational drug use.

Using appropriate protection during sex.

How serious is this disease?

The disease can be mild in most people, serious in some, and can result in hospitalization or death. During a similar outbreak in San Diego County, California, from September 1, 2017, to January 23, 2018, 589 cases were reported with 404 (68.6%) hospitalizations and 20 (3.4%) deaths. Notably, this outbreak has had a high hospitalization rate among those infected with hepatitis A.