At the risk of aging myself with the term “broken record.”
Definition of broken record
: a damaged record that repeats part of a recording over and over again —used figuratively in describing something (such as a statement or experience) that is frequently or tediously repeated The Devil Rays’ season of broken dreams has become a broken record.
Widespread person-to-person outbreaks of hepatitis A across the United States was first identified in 2016. Since then 37 states have publicly reported the following as of April 22, 2022:
Hospitalizations: 27,019 (61%)
Although many of the illnesses have been linked to homelessness and drug use, other illnesses are simply from an unknown cause. To help stop the outbreak, the CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for people who use drugs (including drugs that are not injected), people experiencing homelessness, men who have sex with men, people with liver disease, and people who are or were recently in jail or prison.
With food service being one of the lower paying positions, an interesting question to ask is how many food service workers fit into one or more of the above categories?
However, according to the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices continues to recommend only that the following persons be vaccinated against hepatitis A:
- All children at age 1 year,
- People with unstable housing or experiencing homelessness
- Persons who are at increased risk for infection,
- Persons who are at increased risk for complications from hepatitis A, and
- Any person wishing to obtain immunity.
Which groups do NOT need routine vaccination against hepatitis A? Food service workers.
Foodborne hepatitis A outbreaks are relatively uncommon in the United States; however, when they occur, intensive public health efforts are required for their control.
Although persons who work as food handlers have a critical role in common-source foodborne outbreaks, they are not at increased risk for hepatitis A because of their occupation. Consideration may be given to vaccination of employees who work in areas where community-wide outbreaks are occurring and where state and local health authorities or private employers determine that such vaccination is cost-effective.
Although the CDC feels the risks to restaurant patrons from a hepatitis A ill food service worker is “relatively uncommon,” it certainly can be with tragic consequences. See last years hepatitis A outbreak linked to a restaurant chain in Roanoke Virginia.
Pre-pandemic, I challenged members of the food service industry – including “fast food restaurant A” – to voluntarily vaccinate employees against hepatitis A, and I would never sue them for anything ever in the future. My phone still has not rung.
Yes, I have other examples – hundreds of customers sickened, with some dying, after been exposed to a hepatitis A infectious food service worker. I have also seen tens of thousands of exposed customers standing in long lines to be vaccinated, with those vaccinated primarily being paid by taxpayers. The news is replete with daily warnings of yet another hepatitis A positive employee exposing customers.
A few years ago in a community seeing a current spike in hepatitis A illnesses that had previously required hepatitis A vaccinations for food service workers, was asked why they would no longer required it. The response – or excuse – put the onus on the CDC – “we will not do it because the CDC does not recommend it.” As the Church Lady says: “How convenient.”
CDC, it is time for a change.
In 2000, I wrote this:
In light of the recent, large-scale Hepatitis A exposure in the San Francisco Bay Area, food safety attorneys of the Seattle-based law firm of Marler Clark, are asking restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily vaccinate all workers against Hepatitis A. “In the last six months Hepatitis A exposures have been linked to two Seattle-area Subways, a Carl’s Jr. in Spokane, WA, Hoggsbreath, a Minnesota restaurant, and three restaurants in Northwest Arkansas, IHOP, U.S. Pizza, and Belvedeers. Now more than seven- hundred children are being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus in California after possible consumption of contaminated strawberries. Furthermore, this isn’t the first time that strawberries have been implicated in the outbreak of a foodborne disease.” Marler continued, “Restaurants and food manufacturers must take action and voluntarily vaccinate all of their employees.”