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.