The Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department has released a report stating that Trinity Regional Health System failed to properly notify county health officials of the first of at least 26 Hepatitis A illnesses related to the outbreak at the Milan McDonald’s. The outbreak also required over 5,000 McDonald’s patrons to obtain shots to avoid falling ill. The Quad City times reported on the statements of County Board Chairman Jim Bohnsack:
"Trinity dropped the ball," Bohnsack said during a news conference Monday at the County Board conference room in Rock Island.
"I’m confident that Trinity will step up and do what’s right," he said. Bohnsack added that he hopes the hospital system will reimburse the county for some of the estimated $159,000 spent to help contain the outbreak. The disease was traced to a McDonald’s restaurant in Milan, Ill., where some employees who handled food were diagnosed with hepatitis A.
For their part, Trinity did not seem to have much of an explanation for the failure:
Kathleen Cunningham, Trinity’s vice president of hospital operations, said later Monday that there are many people responsible for reporting diseases such as hepatitis. She added that the hospital system has made internal changes to its reporting system since the problem came to light and is in a continuing dialogue with Rock Island County officials.
"Our joint aim is to look at this whole process and find opportunities for change," she said.
The illness was first recognized in testing done at Metropolitan Medical Laboratory on June 17, and should have been reported on that day. Trinity allegedly notified the County on June 26, but used an "incorrect" report form. The County did not become aware of the report until July 13, when "a staffer in the county health department returned from vacation."
Trinity’s apparent failure in this instance underscores the importance of the reporting of communicable diseases. When labs and hospitals follow regulations and make timely reports of foodborne illness and communicable disease, it allows health apartments to take the steps necessary to reduce or eliminate the threat to the public. Without that information, health agencies’ ability to protect the public is restrained.