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State Cover-Up Of Hepatitis Source Endangers Lives: Food Safety Advocate

FOOD SAFETY NEWS – The clock is ticking.

Not naming the restaurant and the dates of exposure deny Pennsylvania residents vital information in order to know if they were exposed and to have time to receive a potentially life-saving hepatitis A vaccination or immune globulin (IG) shot within two weeks of exposure.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Montgomery County Public Health Department announced on January 5th that they are investigating and outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections associated with an Italian restaurant in Montgomery County in southeastern Pennsylvania.

According to the departments, there are eight confirmed infections among residents of Pennsylvania in this outbreak. Of the seven with information available, six were hospitalized. The death of one is under investigation.

However, health officials did not name the restaurant or the town in which it was located.

“The departments of health should immediately inform the public of the name of the restaurant and the dates of potential exposure so customers can be [treated].” 

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The health departments recommend that health care providers:

  • Consider hepatitis A as a diagnosis in anyone with jaundice or elevated liver enzymes and clinically compatible symptoms of acute hepatitis.
  • Confirm a hepatitis A diagnosis by testing serum for presence of immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies to hepatitis A virus and report all cases via PA-NEDSS.
  • Encourage persons who have been exposed recently to HAV and who have not been vaccinated to be administered one dose of single-antigen hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin (IG) as soon as possible, within 2 weeks after exposure.

According to the advisory, hepatitis A is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus, with severe infections lasting weeks to months.

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from an object, food, or drink contaminated with a small amount of undetected feces from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person – like and infected food service worker.

The departments of health should immediately inform the public of the name of the restaurant and the dates of potential exposure so customers can be “administered one dose of single-antigen hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin (IG) as soon as possible, within 2 weeks after exposure.”

Additional Resources

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