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Westside Market – Marler Clark Calls for Hepatitis A Vaccinations for All Foodservice Workers – Again

New Yorkers are again being urged to stand in line and get Hepatitis A vaccines or Immune Globulin (Ig) shots to prevent the infection and further spread of hepatitis A after being exposed to a hepatitis A infected foodservice worker – this time at the Westside Market.

Hardly a month passes without a warning from a health department somewhere that an infected food handler is the source of yet another potential hepatitis A outbreak. Absent vaccinations of food handlers, combined with an effective and rigorous hand washing policy, there will continue to be more hepatitis A outbreaks. It is time for health departments across the country to require vaccinations of foodservice workers, especially those that serve the very young and the elderly.

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease that spreads from person-to-person. It is spread almost exclusively through fecal-oral contact, generally from person-to-person, or via contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is the only foodborne illness that is vaccine preventable.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since the inception of the vaccine, rates of infection have declined 92 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 83,000 cases of hepatitis A occur in the United States every year, and that many of these cases are related to food-borne transmission. In 1999, over 10,000 people were hospitalized due to hepatitis A infections and 83 people died. In 2003, 650 people became sickened, 4 died and nearly 10,000 people got Ig shots after eating at a Pennsylvania restaurant. Not only do customers get sick, but also businesses lose customers or some simply go out of business.

Although the CDC has not yet called for mandatory vaccination of foodservice workers, it has repeatedly pointed out that the consumption of worker-contaminated food is a major cause of food-borne illness in the United States.

Hepatitis A continues to be one of the most frequently reported, vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, despite the FDA-approval of hepatitis A vaccine in 1995. Widespread vaccination of appropriate susceptible populations would substantially lower disease incidence and potentially eliminate indigenous transmission of hepatitis A infections. Vaccinations cost about $50. The major economic reason that these preventative shots have not been used is because of the high turnover rate of foodservice employees. Eating out becomes a whole lot less of a gamble, if all foodservice workers faced the same requirement.

According to the CDC, the costs associated with hepatitis A are substantial. Between 11% and 22% of persons who have hepatitis A are hospitalized. Adults who become ill lose an average of 27 days of work. Health departments incur substantial costs in providing post-exposure prophylaxis to an average of 11 contacts per case. Average costs (direct and indirect) of hepatitis A range from $1,817 to $2,459 per case for adults and from $433 to $1,492 per case for children less than 18 years of age. In 1989, the estimated annual direct and indirect costs of hepatitis A in the United States were more than $200 million, equivalent to more than $300 million in 1997 dollars.  A new CDC report shows in 2010 just over 10 percent of people between the ages of 19 and 49 years old got a Hepatitis A shot.

Hepatitis A:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food.  The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Subway, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Quiznos, Chi-Chi’s and Carl’s Jr.