– OPINION –
Come on CDC, let’s call for hepatitis A vaccines for all food service workers.
There has been an ongoing and massive hepatitis A outbreak that has been sweeping the United States over the last several years. Seeing yet another hepatitis A scare in a food service worker has been a far too common occurrence. Here is what the CDC continues to say about vaccinating food handlers:
The CDC does not recommend vaccinating all food handlers because doing so would not prevent or stop the ongoing outbreaks primarily affecting individuals who report using or injecting drugs and people experiencing homelessness. Food handlers are not at increased risk for hepatitis A because of their occupation. During ongoing outbreaks, transmission from food handlers to restaurant patrons has been extremely rare because standard sanitation practices of food handlers help prevent the spread of the virus. Individuals who live in a household with an infected person or who participate in risk behaviors previously described are at greater risk for hepatitis A infection.
The CDC continues to miss the point; granted food service workers are not more at risk of getting hepatitis A because of their occupation, but they are a risk for spreading it to customers. Also, food service are low paid jobs that certainly have the likelihood of being filled by people who are immigrants, where hepatitis A might be endemic, or people who have been recently homeless.
Just last September, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts (RCAHD) announced that RCAHD has identified a total of 52 confirmed primary cases. There have been at least 36 hospitalizations with unfortunately 4 deaths with 1 liver transplant. All illnesses were linked to an unvaccinated employee who worked at three Famous Anthony’s restaurant locations in Roanoke who was diagnosed with hepatitis A.
So, here we are today – again.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is working with Sunlife Organics Juice Bar in West Hollywood to alert consumers of a possible hepatitis A exposure. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health identified hepatitis A virus infection in a food handler who worked at this location.
No additional cases have been identified at this time.
Public Health recommends hepatitis A vaccination for patrons who consumed food or beverages from Sunlife Organics in West Hollywood between March 14–17, 2022. Vaccination is not necessary for people who previously completed the hepatitis A vaccine series or are known to have a past infection. To prevent infection or reduce illness, hepatitis A vaccine should be administered within 14 days after a known exposure.
Hepatitis A vaccinations might be available through local pharmacies or physicians’ offices. In addition, Public Health will be offering free hepatitis A vaccinations to exposed persons at:
Hollywood Wilshire Health Center 5205 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038
· Sunday, March 27, 2022 from 10am-1pm
· Monday, March 28, 2022 from 10am – 1pm
· Tuesday, March 29, 2022 from 8am – 4pm
Most people will have protective levels of antibody after one dose of the Hepatitis A vaccine but can choose to visit their primary care provider to complete the series with a second dose 6 months after receiving their first dose.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A causes acute liver disease, which may be severe. Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can be spread from person-to-person through the fecal-oral route (when contaminated feces from an infected person are somehow ingested by another person during close personal contact) or by eating or drinking contaminated food or water). Most adults with acute hepatitis A will have symptoms that may include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark colored urine and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). There is no specific antiviral treatment.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent disease. In addition, infection can be prevented by vaccination within 14 days after a known exposure to a person with infectious hepatitis A. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems might benefit from receiving immune globulin (IG) in addition to hepatitis A vaccination for prevention after an exposure. For any questions about hepatitis A or the need for immune globulin, Public Health recommends that you speak to your primary care provider. If you do not have a regular provider, call 2-1-1 for assistance.
Public Health will continue monitoring all known individuals who may have been exposed to individuals ill with hepatitis A