Yesterday, 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. This amendment is in response to Salt Lake County’s ongoing hepatitis A outbreak and takes effect immediately, on February 1, 2018.

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,” explained Gary Edwards, SLCoHD executive director. “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; workers who do not comply within 14 days will be excluded from work assignments that involve handling food or food-contact surfaces.

Under the temporary amendment, food establishments are responsible for maintaining official record of their employees’ vaccination status. Each occurrence of an unvaccinated employee handling food or a food-contact surface will be recorded as a critical violation on the establishment’s inspection history, and repeated failure to comply may result in suspension or revocation of the affected food establishment’s permit to operate.

The temporary amendment also authorizes SLCoHD 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 food-service 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 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.