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Hep A case at local restaurant

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SALYERSVILLE – The health department released that another food service worker in Magoffin had been diagnosed with hepatitis A last week. 

Salyersville Mayor and Magoffin County Health Department Director James “Pete” Shepherd told Mortimer Media Group on Thursday, January 3 that he had found out that morning that a Salyersville McDonald’s employee had tested positive for hepatitis A.

While McDonald’s had been in the process of getting all of their employees vaccinated, this one worker had not, yet, had the inoculation. Shepherd explained that the employee did not participate in the food preparation and had been through the food handling class, so he felt the possibility for the transmission of the virus was incredibly low.

He also stated that the restaurant would be inspected, again, though they had never failed an inspection, and he expects there to be no problems going further.

A representative with McDonald’s told the Independent they are close to 100 percent vaccinated for the virus now at the business and that they had started the process before the recent case occurred.

Local McDonald’s Franchise Owner/Operator Bob Hutchison released the following statement regarding the hepatitis A case: "We were informed that one of our employees has become ill; however, the transmission risk to guests and employees who’ve visited our restaurant is deemed extremely low. As a McDonald’s franchise owner / operator, the health and well-being of my customers and employees is my highest priority, and my organization is fully cooperating with the local and state health departments to ensure the ongoing health and safety of all who visit our restaurant. We will continue to do our part as local business owners in combating this statewide health issue.”

This most recent case bumps Magoffin’s total of hepatitis A cases to 61 overall, with six new cases reported last week. Last month Shepherd reported a slowdown in reported cases, attributing vaccinations, food handling courses and increase in public information about the virus to the decline, though the most recent cases shows we’re not out of the woods, yet. 

He did report that nearly all food service workers in Salyersville have been vaccinated and all are required to attend food handling classes, so he feels the chance of transmission from a food service worker to the consumer is extremely low. 

In past interviews regarding the hepatitis A outbreak, Shepherd explained that the vaccine is effective after someone has come in contact with the virus, so if someone thinks they may have been exposed, such as eating at one of the restaurants that have reported a worker with Hepatitis A, that person can get the vaccine as much as two weeks after exposure to be protected.

The Magoffin County Health Department is now offering the Hepatitis A vaccine (which comes in two rounds). While it is covered by most insurances, including Medicaid, uninsured people can get the shots by only paying the health department’s cost for the vaccine. Each shot costs $40, so it would be $80 for both rounds of the vaccine. For those that qualify, the health department has received a grant to cover the cost of the vaccine for senior citizens.

Shepherd also emphasized the importance of handwashing in preventing the virus.

“You just need good personal hygiene, wash your hands and produce off good,” Shepherd said. “Even if someone has the virus working in a restaurant, as long as they handle the food properly, you’re not at risk.”

Hepatitis A virus can spread by eating food handled by someone with the virus who did not properly wash his or her hands, drinking contaminated water, being in close contact with an infected person and by having sexual contact with someone with the virus. 
 

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Heather Oney

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