The hepatitis A outbreak has affected at least a dozen restaurants in three southeast Michigan counties this year. That’s why Oakland County is hosting two vaccination clinics for restaurant workers this week, no appointment necessary.
Restaurant workers are a priority target for the limited supply of the hep A vaccine because they handle other people’s food. Those who catch the virus are most contagious before they show symptoms of hep A.
“They can contaminate the food unaware, and then sometimes even in the early stages of illness, people report to work regardless,” said William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Nearly 600 people have contracted hepatitis A in Michigan in the last year and a half. The rate may actually be higher because many people who catch it do not exhibit symptoms at all, Schaffner said. The rate of hospitalization for this outbreak in Michigan is high, state officials say. Twenty people have died.
State law requires food workers to report a hepatitis A diagnosis or symptoms to their employer. Food establishments are then required to report that information to local health departments.
But there is nothing in state law that requires health departments or restaurants to inform the public of a confirmed hepatitis A case.
SOURCE: LINDSEY SMITH