OC Health Department offering free Hepatitis A vaccine for food service workers

Posted 18 March 2021 at 10:49 am

Press Release, Orleans County Health Department

ALBION – The Orleans County Health Department has been awarded a grant to provide the Hepatitis A vaccine to food service workers at no cost to them or the employer.

In Western New York and across the United States, foodborne outbreaks of Hepatitis A have occurred as a result of infected food service workers. Brenden Bedard, Director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans Counties, understands the severity of Hepatitis A and the effect it can have on a business and community.

“Hepatitis A is a serious issue because most food service workers will spread the infection before even knowing they have the disease,” Bedard said. “A food service worker can spread the virus to customers or other staff by contaminating surfaces, utensils and/or food, which can make unvaccinated individuals very sick. By offering the vaccine to food services workers, we can prevent unnecessary illness from spreading in the community.”

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection that is caused by the Hepatitis A Virus. It is typically spread through the feces of infected individuals. Someone can become infected by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated by feces as well as having close personal contact with a person who is infected, or use of injection and non-injection drugs.

The symptoms of Hepatitis A may include sudden onset of fever, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). HAV usually does not have signs or symptoms until the second week of infection and is the most infectious during this time.

The good news is that Hepatitis A can be prevented through vaccination! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine has a 94% – 100% efficacy rate. The Hepatitis A vaccine is a two-dose series that is administered 6 months apart. As the vaccine is not required to attend school or daycare, many people have not received it.

Any food service worker living or working in Orleans County can receive the vaccine. By receiving the vaccine, you are also protecting yourself from getting the virus if you come in contact with dishes and/or utensils that may have been contaminated by a customer or co- worker.

Restaurants who have participated in this opportunity will receive a certificate honoring their commitment to protecting the health and safety of their workers and customers.

Restaurants or food services workers who are interested in receiving the Hepatitis A vaccine should contact the Orleans County Health Department immediately as this opportunity is ending on April 1. The supply is on a first-come, first serve basis.

For more information, please call the Orleans County Health Department at 585-589-3278. The department is open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on the hepatitis A virus, click here.