A food service employee at the Albert B. Chandler Hospital at the University of Kentucky has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver disease, the hospital announced.
The employee prepared food at the Pavilion A cafeteria, but was not involved in any food preparation for hospital patients. The hospital advises anyone who ate at the cafeteria between Oct. 11 and 30 to get a hepatitis A vaccination, which requires two shots, six months apart.
All food-service workers at UK HealthCare will now be required to get the vaccine, and the hospital will set up “vaccination stations” for that.
The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department and UK HealthCare have recommended that all Lexington residents get vaccinated as the number of cases continues to climb. Kentucky schoolchildren were required to have the vaccination at the beginning of the school year.
In the current outbreak, there have been no confirmed cases of hepatitis A being transmitted by food-service workers in Kentucky. The primary risk factors continue to be illicit drug use and homelessness.
Since August 2017, 2,410 cases of acute hepatitis A have been reported in 94 of the state’s 120 counties, resulting in 1,267 hospitalizations and 16 deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health. The agency’s weekly report has county-by-county figures.
Last week, two people died in Franklin County from the virus and an employee at Frisch’s Big Boy on Harrodsburg Road was diagnosed with it — the first time a restaurant worker had been diagnosed with the disease in Lexington since the outbreak, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that is usually spread when a person unknowingly eats or drinks something contaminated with by small amounts of fecal material from an infected person. Washing your hands for about 20 seconds with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, or before preparing food and drinks can help stop the spread of hepatitis A. It is important to note that hand gels are not an alternative because they do not kill the virus that causes hepatitis A.
Symptoms of hepatitis A are fatigue, decreased appetite, stomach pain, nausea, darkened urine, pale stools and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Not everyone with the virus has symptoms and a person with the virus is contagious for up to two weeks before showing symptoms. People can become ill 15 days to 50 days after being exposed to the virus. Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention.