Making restaurants pay for vaccinating their own employees against hepatitis A before they become food service workers would be a far cheaper alternative than running huge vaccination clinics after a food service worker becomes infected and exposes the public.

The city of Lubbock, TX is the latest community holding a vaccination clinic — at a cost of $256,000 — for anyone who dined at Cheddar’s Casual Cafe between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8. A restaurant employee working in food preparation at that time later tested positive for the virus.

“From both a public health perspective and business perspective, it makes sense for restaurants to vaccinate their employees against hepatitis A before being forced to go through mass customer vaccines,” says food safety attorney Bill Marler, publisher of Food Safety News.

Marler says it would be simpler for restaurants to pay to keep their employees vaccinated rather than put hundreds and sometimes thousands through the ordeal of waiting in lines for hours to get hepatitis A vaccine or Immune globulin.

“The amount of business Cheddar’s and other restaurants lose in a situation like this can be devastating,” he added.  “Worker vaccinations are not only an investment in employee and customer health, but the health of the business as well.”

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease.  It is spread almost exclusively through ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from person-to-person contact, or via contaminated food or beverages. It is the only common foodborne illness that is vaccine preventable.

Lubbock’s free clinic with vaccines and Immune globulin shots will be held  September 15-19 at the Memorial Civic Center.  Anyone who dined at Cheddar’s between August 31 and September 8 may have been exposed to the virus and should participate in the clinic, officials say.

Earlier this year, an estimated 3,000 people were exposed to hepatitis A at an Olive Garden restaurant in Fayetteville, NC.