Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

November 24, 2010

Vaccine clinic set for Hepatitis A exposure

ASHLAND — A vaccination clinic has been scheduled for anyone who recently had a meal from the drive-through of a popular Winchester Ave. fast-food restaurant and may have been exposed to Hepatitis A.

As part of their investigation of recent Hepatitis A cases in the community, staff from the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department have identified a case of Hepatitis A in an Ashland food service worker.

The employee worked the drive-thru window at the Burger King on Winchester Avenue during the week of Nov. 7 and the dates of November 15 and 17. The employee’s contact with patrons was limited to the drive-thru window, so patrons who ate inside the restaurant were not at risk of exposure.

Since the employee was not involved in food preparation, local health officials say the risk of becoming ill is low.

The employee has also been identified as a close personal contact of another person previously identified with a case of Hepatitis A.

“So far, all of the cases in Boyd County are linked to close contacts of earlier cases,” said Senior Regional Epidemiologist Kristy M. Bolen, who noted there have been no Hepatitis A cases associated only with consuming food items from the restaurant as of Nov. 23.

Customers who went through the drive-through multiple times during the dates identified, or persons who have low immunity would be at greatest risk, Bolen said, even though transmission through food service workers is rare since handwashing among food service workers is regularly emphasized.

Co-workers of the person most-recently diagnosed with Hepatitis A have received a vaccination and are safe to work with food at this time, health officials said, and the restaurant management has been working on the investigation with the health department staff.

 Customers who may have eaten products from the drive-through of the Burger King on Winchester Ave. during the time frame specified should contact their primary care physician, officials said, especially if they are having symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or dark urine.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection usually appear 15 to 50 days after exposure and can include: fever, jaundice, grey-colored stools, dark urine, abdominal pain, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and joint pain.

Some people, especially children, may have no symptoms. This is why proper handwashing is critical.

There is no treatment for Hepatitis A and some people require hospitalization. Hepatitis A can be spread when: an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches objects or food; a caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person; someone engages in certain sexual activities.

Hepatitis A can be prevented before an exposure by receiving the Hepatitis A vaccination. This vaccination is available to anyone 12 months of age or older and is given in two doses six months apart. Public health officials also remind the public that handwashing is the best way to prevent infection. Handwashing should be emphasized especially after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or preparing and eating food. For more information, please visit www.abchealthdepartment.com or call the Hepatitis A Hotline at (606) 329-9444 extension 2240.

The vaccination clinic for people who may have eaten at the Burger King drive through on the week of Nov. 7 and the days of Nov.  15 and 17 will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m  on Dec. 1 in the clinic building at the health department. All other clinical services will be suspended on this date due to the vaccination clinic. Doors to the building will not open until 8:00 a.m.

All pediatric Hepatitis A vaccinations will cost $2 and must be paid by check or cash at the time of service. The health department is only able to bill Kentucky Medicaid during this clinic.

The health department also has a limited supply of Adult Hepatitis A vaccine from the state that will be available for $2, and once this supply of vaccine is exhausted the cost will be $25.00. All fees are payable by check or cash on the date of service.

Due to the holiday the health department has established a Hepatitis A hotline to answer questions the public may have on Hepatitis A or the Dec. 1st vaccination clinic. The hotline can be reached by calling 329-9444 and entering the extension 2240 when prompted. The most up-to-date information can always be found on the health department’s website at www.abchealthdepartment.com.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.

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