Should Kentucky Derby Food Staff Be Vaccinated for Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A has been diagnosed in employees at 13 restaurants or grocery stores in the Louisville KY area
mint juleps
(Precision Vaccinations)

This Saturday is the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby when over 150,000 people gather to celebrate a world-class sport, traditional cocktails, and tasty southern cooking

This all-day event held at Churchill Downs consists of 14 horse races. The 'Run for the Roses', is race number 12, post time at 6:50 EST and generates plenty of excitement worldwide.

However, no one wants to be confronted with a hepatitis A outbreak.

Since November of 2017, Louisville, KY has been the leading city of a multi-state hepatitis A outbreak.

Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection, says the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) has identified 311 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A, which is a liver disease, caused by hepatitis A virus. 

And now, this outbreak has extended into the foodservice industry.

Employees at 13 restaurants or grocery stores in the area have been diagnosed with hepatitis A, reported WDRB.

Officials with Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness said these food services locations are now among the safest in the city.

“There is a certain level of chlorination they have to use in order to clean restaurants,"  said Dr. Lori Caloia, Louisville Metro Health Department Medical Director.

After the initial scrub down, restaurants that had infected employees are kept under close watch by the health department.

“So far, we haven't seen any transmission from any food workers that have been infected,” Dr. Caloia said. “The best ways to prevent hepatitis A infections is to get vaccinated and to practice good hand washing.”

Which leads to the obvious question, shouldn’t all food service workers in Louisville get a hepatitis A vaccination?

According to previous research, vaccination mandates produce positive results.

This study reported mandatory vaccination policy for food handlers in St. Louis County was associated with the elimination of hepatitis A outbreaks in the region.

And, was associated with a significant decrease in the hepatitis A case rates from pre- to post-policy implementation.

In the USA, there are 3 FDA approved hepatitis A vaccines: Vaqta, Havrix, and Twinrix.

Most pharmacies offer these hepatitis vaccines. And, if you would like to schedule a vaccination appointment, please click here.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides current HAV vaccine contract prices and general information, and vaccine discounts can be found here.

But, vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, says the CDC. People are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.