I have been advocating this for a very long time.

As recently reported, the Monroe County Health Department (MCHD) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are continuing to see an increased number of Hepatitis A cases in the City of Detroit, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Sanilac, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. There has been an increase in the infection among food workers, both in restaurants and other food preparation venues. Hepatitis A is easily transmitted by consuming food or beverages handled by infected persons. Each ill food-worker situation could present a significant risk of infection to large numbers of people. It is important to note that there have been no Monroe County food-service facilities/workers connected to the outbreak at this point.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that occurs as a result of infection with Hepatitis A virus. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stools. Most cases recover completely with no ill effects. Hepatitis A can be contracted by eating contaminated food or water, sexually, or just by living with an infected person. Illness can appear 15-50 days after exposure and individuals can be sick for several weeks.

What can food service workers do to protect themselves and their communities?

All licensed food-service facilities recently received an informational letter from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) regarding Hepatitis A, its effects and how transmission can be prevented.

If you have health insurance, contact your health care provider or pharmacy for the Hepatitis A vaccine. Otherwise, in an attempt to prevent further outbreak in Monroe County, the Health Department will be providing immunization to all food- service workers who have not previously been vaccinated for Hepatitis A.

The MCHD will be hosting FREE Hepatitis A immunization clinics beginning Monday, December 4, 2017. The clinics will be held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 A.M.-11:30 A.M. and 1 P.M. – 4:30 P.M. Wednesday clinics will run from 10:00 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. and 1:30 P.M. – 6:30 P.M. The clinics will be on a walk-in basis (no appointment necessary) and will run through December 15.

“It is important for all food-service employees in Monroe County to realize the enormous impact they can have on preventing the spread of this potentially dangerous virus. The MCHD strongly encourages all employees to get vaccinated, including but not limited to: cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers, servers, dining room attendants, hosts/hostesses, managers and owners” said Chris Westover, Environmental Health Director at the Health Department. “Furthermore, this free clinic is not limited to restaurants only. It is open to any and all employees who prep, cook, handle or serve food at any point in the work day. This includes grocery stores, convenience stores, delicatessens, party stores, food processors, etc.”, he added.

For more information regarding the free Hepatitis A vaccine clinics, please call the Monroe County Health Department at 734-240-7800, Bridget Huss at 734-240-7831 or Chris Westover at 734-240-7921.