BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) – State health officials are urging restaurant workers to take extra precautions as a hepatitis outbreak continues to grow in the state. Since September of 2018, 132 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in the state, including as many as 3 in Baldwin County. The infections in Baldwin County happened in July. Thirty cases of HAV were reported in July 2019, the highest number of monthly cases since the outbreak began.
In a press release, the Alabama Department of Public Health, ” encourages food service owners and managers to consider requiring hepatitis A vaccine for all food workers. While food workers are not at a higher risk than other workers, some fall into high-risk groups and would place customers at risk if they became infected. “
HERE IS THE ENTIRE UNEDITED PRESS RELEASE:
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Immunization Division, encourages food service owners and managers to consider requiring hepatitis A vaccine for all food workers. While food workers are not at a higher risk than other workers, some fall into high-risk groups and would place customers at risk if they became infected.
Hepatitis A virus is commonly spread because of poor hand hygiene which allows the transfer of small amounts of stool containing the virus. Thorough handwashing after going to the bathroom and vaccination are the best ways to prevent spread of hepatitis A.
Since September 2018, Alabama has been investigating and trying to stop a statewide hepatitis A outbreak which continues to spread. As of August 14, there were 132 confirmed outbreak-related cases in at least 25 Alabama counties. There have been multiple confirmed cases in food workers, a fact which should concern every restaurant owner and manager.
If a food worker is infectious when working and fails to follow proper hand hygiene, hepatitis A virus can be spread to coworkers and customers. For the latest numbers and location of outbreak-related cases, please go to http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization/assets/HepatitisAoutbreakreport.pdf.
If it is determined that there has been a potential exposure to customers, this will require intensive public health efforts. In most cases of food-associated exposures through infected food handlers, the restaurant’s name will be released to the public to assist in the identification and notification of persons with potential exposure for the purposes of vaccinating those who have not been vaccinated.
While this is not a requirement, ADPH is strongly encouraging food service owners and managers to consider hepatitis A vaccinations in addition to educating employees on proper handwashing, including training consisting of observation in doing it.
In addition, food workers should
· Never touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands
· Never work while they are sick with stomach (gastrointestinal) illnesses.
For more information about hepatitis A disease and vaccine, go to http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization/recent-outbreaks.html.