Earlier this week the Salt Lake County Board of Health amended “Health Regulation #5: Food Sanitation” to require hepatitis A vaccination for all food workers in an establishment when anyone working in that establishment has been in contact with someone infected with hepatitis A.

The amendment is in response to Salt Lake County’s ongoing hepatitis A outbreak and took effect Feb. 1.

At least 181 people have been sickened in the Salt Lake area.

“Throughout this outbreak, we’ve identified that some people infected with hepatitis A share a household or are otherwise in contact with someone who works at a food service establishment,” said health department executive director Gary Edwards.

“When we’ve learned this, we’ve immediately acted to vaccinate all food workers in that same establishment for the protection of the public. This amendment formalizes and codifies that health department response as it relates to food workers.”

The temporary amendment requires food service establishments to vaccinate all employees who handle food if any worker in the establishment is identified as a contact of someone confirmed to have hepatitis A. Establishments have 14 days to comply with the vaccine requirement. Unvaccinated workers who do not meet the deadline will be excluded from work assignments that involve food handling and food-contact surfaces.

Under the temporary amendment, food establishments are responsible for maintaining official records of their employees’ vaccination status. Each occurrence of an unvaccinated employee handling food or touching any food-contact surfaces will be recorded as a critical violation on the establishment’s inspection history. Repeated violations to comply can result in suspension or revocation of businesses operating permits.

The temporary amendment also authorizes the health department to reduce the cost of the first dose of the hepatitis A vaccine by up to 50 percent for anyone seeking vaccination at a health department immunization clinic who can document that they are a foodservice employee in Salt Lake County.

Temporary amendments may be enacted by the Board of Health without the normal public hearing process in response to an imminent public health concern. Temporary amendments are limited to 120 days, during which the board members may, if they choose, engage in the full public notification and hearing process to permanently amend a regulation. The board has not yet determined if it will be necessary to permanently amend Health Regulation #5.

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