An ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak has sickened over 500 and killed 6 in the New Jersey area prompting health officials to issue an alert to the public. So what is Hepatitis A, how is it transmitted and what precautions can the public take?
Highly contagious Hepatitis A impacts the liver
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection that impacts the liver. Its frequently transmitted through contaminated food, unsafe water, and unsanitary conditions. Symptoms can include fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, dark urine, jaundice, and joint pain. The virus can lay dormant for weeks before symptoms arise.
New Jersey Outbreak
New Jersey has seen an explosion of cases this year. Normally, the state sees under 100 cases per year – this year there have been over 500 already. An infected worker at a grocery store in Paterson may have exposed shoppers between Sept 30 and Oct 5. It’s recommended that anyone who ate produce from Brothers Produce recently immediately seek treatment. At a country club in Mendham, an infected food service worker exposed diners sickening dozens and causing at least one death. Recently, an infection was also confirmed in a deli worker at a major grocery store in Somerset. Since each exposure may be dormant for weeks, any untreated individual who contracts Hepatitis A can further spread the infection. The worker in Somerset was infectious from Oct. 13-30th, meaning symptoms can present up until Nov. 13.
Prevention of foodborne illness in a commercial kitchen is a serious responsibility and failure to do so can incur legal, financial and social penalties that can cripple a business. Would you want to eat at a restaurant that recently had a Hepatitis outbreak? The golf club in Mendham where one of the outbreaks occurred is currently being sued for 9 million dollars…and that’s only by two of the individuals affected. There’s also an ethical responsibility to practice food safety, customers trust that the establishments they eat at will have sanitary work conditions. One of the best ways to ensure hygienic and safe foodservice facilities is to conduct an independent audit and have food safety procedures in place. Cleaning procedures should include a solvent designed to kill Hepatitis A such as Biospray D2.
When you use a restroom in a restaurant there is almost always a sign that says ‘Employees must wash hands before returning to work’ or something with similar phrasing. Hepatitis A is one of the reasons you see that sign. Hepatitis A can be transmitted through contaminated fecal matter that comes into contact with food. Anyone who is handling food should be thoroughly washing their hands before touching food regardless of commercial or home setting.
Hepatitis A can be also prevented with vaccines. The CDC recommends all children receive the vaccine at 1 year old. Consult a medical professional to see if receiving a vaccinate is appropriate for you.
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