We have quickly approached the anniversary of the Hepatitis A outbreak that affected our local, Hawaii community back in May of last year. This was a [detrimental occurrence] that weighed heavily on local restaurants; seriously impacting sales, staffing, and, in some cases, the ability to gain customers. With May being Hepatitis Awareness Month, it is a great time for us to remind ourselves of what Hepatitis is and how we can prevent outbreaks in the future.
Hepatitis is a condition that refers to the inflammation of the liver and results in minor to severe illness. There are three types of hepatitis: Hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis B and C are both spread through blood and bodily fluid transmission and have lifelong symptoms that can lead to liver disease.
Hepatitis A, however, is spread through the ingestion of food and other items that are contaminated with the hepatitis virus. One of the most common sources of the virus is fecal matter. Hepatitis A is the most common form of the virus and was the strain that affected Hawaii last year. Unlike the other two, Hepatitis A does not cause chronic (long-lasting) liver disease. However, in some cases, acute liver failure will develop, which can be fatal.
Here are a few tips the restaurant industry can use to prevent the spread of the Hepatitis virus:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the restroom. Scrub soap to your elbows and dry completely.
- Stay home if you suspect you have a viral infection.
- Always 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, Hepatitis A and B are the only forms with vaccines that are capable of preventing the infection. If you are concerned about your risk of infection from the virus talk to your primary care physician. If the vaccine is the right method of prevention for you, it can be administered by either your doctor or a participating local pharmacy, in-store and, in some cases, at worksite clinics.
Dr. John E. Aoki, M.D. CHCQM, FABQAURP
Chief Medical Officer
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