Stay informed: Help protect yourself and others from Hepatitis A
Nearly one year after a hepatitis A outbreak began in San Diego, there is mixed news to report about the ongoing problem.
San Diego County’s top public health official said this week that there are signs that the outbreak has slowed there. However, over the last several months, the outbreak has spread to Los Angeles and Santa Cruz. Even as far away as San Francisco and Sacramento, public officials are discussing the potential for further spread.
Some of you have asked how you can protect your employees and your customers. In San Diego, the CRA has worked closely with the county’s Department of Public Health, has helped plan and host vaccination clinics and wants to help members statewide by providing the latest news, along with facts from the Centers for Disease Control. We hope this will help you as you work to prevent the spread of the virus.
First, it’s important to know that while the spread of hepatitis A is a serious public health issue, not everyone is considered to be at an elevated risk for exposure. For more information about who is most at risk, along with knowledge about how hepatitis A spreads and how to prevent its spread, consult this information from the CDC. In San Diego and other cities, the homeless population has been hardest hit and this is blamed in large part on a lack of access to sanitation. However, some food handlers have also been infected.
Experts believe the strain of hepatitis A that has spread so rapidly in Southern California is not spread through food, but through person-to-person contact and even between people and surfaces or objects that have been touched by an infected person. As you can guess, that makes frequent hand-washing very important. Experts say using hand sanitizer is not the preferred form of cleansing your hands as it relates to hepatitis A. They recommend cleansing your hands the old-fashioned way – with warm, soapy water.
The good news is, restaurants already require employees to wash their hands frequently, and routinely preach this advice to others. It may be the single most important thing you can continue to do. While the CDC reports that vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A, public agencies may prioritize the homeless population and groups considered most at-risk when providing the vaccine for free. If you’d like information about the vaccine, you can contact your doctor or your local public health department.
Most importantly, thank you for everything you’re doing to keep yourselves and your employees informed. Even though hepatitis A is not a problem specific to restaurants, restaurants have stepped forward to be part of the prevention efforts. Thank you!