September is National Food Safety Month, and with the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A, it is especially important to understand the significance of proper food safety. In addition to the Hepatitis A virus that we are all very familiar with by now, another food-borne virus which you may not be familiar with is called Norovirus. Norovirus is the most commonly transmitted food-borne virus. The virus is typically linked to contaminated shellfish and ready-to-eat foods. Ingesting even a small amount of the virus can make you sick. It becomes contagious after only a few hours and can remain in your system for days, even after symptoms have ended. Food-borne viruses are usually transferred through fecal-oral routes, but Norovirus is also transmitted through airborne vomit particles.
The heat from cooking is not going to kill the virus, so practicing proper hygiene when you are handling food or surfaces that food touches is crucial. Washing your hands is the #1 thing you can do to help stop the spread of food-borne viruses. Here are some tips on how you can help prevent the spread of a virus:
When washing your hands, scrub soap up to your elbows. Rinse and dry completely.
Use single-use gloves when handling food. You can also use long cooking utensils.
Stay home when you are sick, especially if you are showing symptoms of a virus (includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and jaundice – yellowing of the skin and eyes).
Only use trusted food suppliers.
Keep equipment and surfaces properly cleaned and sanitized after they are used, when switching between foods, and after four hours if the area is in constant use.
Keep guests safe by reporting any suspected illnesses to your manager before working or as soon as you become aware of it. If you have been diagnosed with a virus, you should stay out of restaurants. Managers must also report any diagnoses of food-borne viruses to the regulatory agency. Employees can return to work 24-hours after symptoms have gone away, or if medically allowed by their physician to return. If you experienced jaundice or were diagnosed with a food-borne virus by a physician, you MUST obtain medical release to return to work.
Visit www.foodsafetymonth.com for more information on proper food handling. Tools and activities are also available if you are interested in being more active and engaging in educating your employees.
Dr. John E. Aoki, M.D. CHCQM, FABQAURP
Chief Medical Officer
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