San Diego is the latest in a series out outbreaks and exposure to hepatitis A via restaurant food and/or infected workers. County health officials there say they are investigating twelve cases of hepatitis A linked to a Chipotle Mexican Grill in La Mesa.
Hepatitis A is the only common vaccine-preventable foodborne disease in the United States. Yet according to foodborne illness litigation specialist William Marler, not a month goes by without a warning from a health department somewhere in the US that an infected food handler is the source of a potential hepatitis A outbreak. Vaccinations of food handlers combined with an effective and rigorous hand washing policy is the only sure road to preventing more hepatitis A outbreaks. It is time for health departments across the country to require vaccinations of foodservice workers, especially those that serve the very young and the elderly.
Hepatitis A virus a result of fecal-oral contamination, and can be spread person to person or through food handling, particularly cold or uncooked foods. These include salads and salad items, rolls, breads, buns, fruit or vegetable garnishes, sandwich condiments such as pickles and onions, chips, and ice or beverages containing ice, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 83,000 cases of hepatitis A occur in the United States every year, and that many of these cases are related to food-borne transmission. In 1999, over 10,000 people were hospitalized due to hepatitis A infections and 83 people died. In 2003, 650 people became sickened, 4 died and nearly 10,000 people got Ig shots after eating at a Pennsylvania restaurant. Not only do customers get sick, but businesses lose customers or some simply go out of business.