Hepatitis is a condition that refers to inflammation of the liver, resulting in minor to severe illness. You may recall the Hepatitis A outbreak that greatly impacted our local community two years ago. May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, a good time to think about doing our part to prevent future outbreaks.
There are three types of Hepatitis: A, B, and C. Hepatitis B and C are spread through blood and bodily fluids, with lifelong symptoms that can lead to liver disease. Hepatitis A, however, is spread through the ingestion of contaminated food and other items, most often through fecal matter. It is the most common form of the virus and was the strain that affected Hawaii. Unlike the other two, Hepatitis A does not cause chronic (long-lasting) liver disease. However, in some cases, acute liver failure develops and can be fatal.
Here are a few tips for the restaurant industry to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis:
- Employees should wash their hands frequently, scrub soap up to the elbows, then rinse and dry completely, especially after using the restroom.
- Employees who suspect they have a viral infection should stay home.
- Use fresh gloves when handling different food items.
- Use trusted food suppliers.
- Keep food prep stations clean and sanitized.
While treatment is available for all types of hepatitis, A and B are the only forms with available vaccines. If you are concerned about your risk of infection, talk with your primary care physician. If the vaccine is recommended for you, it can be administered by your doctor, a participating local pharmacy, and in some cases, at worksite clinics.
John E. Aoki, M.D., CHCQM, FABQAURP
Chief Medical Officer
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