The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health has requested the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) provide hepatitis A vaccination clinics for restaurant and food service employees in Kanawha and Putnam counties as part of the response to the national outbreak. Most of the cases in this outbreak have occurred in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
“I am issuing a strong recommendation to all Kanawha and Putnam County food service vendors and restaurants to have their employees vaccinated for hepatitis A, since national data indicate that drug use among the food service industry is about 19.1 percent,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Because of the high incidence of drug use reported in West Virginia and among the food industry, this is a proactive measure to vaccinate a high-risk group in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. We strongly advise that all food service owners take this recommendation seriously, and be proactive in helping to ensure their employees get vaccinated against hepatitis A.”
Eight food establishments in Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties have been identified as having a food service worker confirmed with hepatitis A. In each of those instances, a history of drug use was identified in an employee. To date, no customer of any of the food establishments impacted thus far have become ill by eating food provided by the facility.
DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health (BPH) was requested by Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper to intervene in the local outbreak on May 7. Since then, BPH has been in contact with President Carper who supports the call for additional vaccine clinics for food service workers. KCHD will provide mass vaccination clinics to help accommodate food service employee schedules in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
Mass vaccination clinics for hepatitis A are scheduled for:
• May 25 Kanawha-Charleston Health Department; 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
• May 30 Charleston Civic Center; 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
• June 1 St. George Conference Center (Court and Lee Streets); 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
“It’s important to remember the risk of hepatitis A transmission to the general public remains low,” Gupta added. “I have directed the purchase of an additional $550,000 in hepatitis A vaccines to support these clinics and to help eliminate cost as a barrier of getting the vaccine. We anticipate this outbreak will continue for quite some time as it has in other states and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect the public’s health.”
Statewide, there have been 106 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of hepatitis A. Most (87%) of those cases in have occurred in Kanawha (59) and Putnam (28) counties, with Cabell at 10, and Boone, Jackson, Lincoln, Wayne and Wyoming counties having less than five cases each.
High risk groups needing the vaccine include persons who use injection and non-injection drugs, persons who are homeless, men who have sex with men, and persons who were incarcerated within the past six weeks. Additionally, persons who have ongoing or direct contact with individuals in these risk groups or those who are known to have hepatitis A should be vaccinated. Young children are routinely recommended for the hepatitis A vaccine beginning at age one. Persons unsure whether they need the vaccine should contact their local health department or medical professional.
To learn more about the current hepatitis A outbreak, please visit www.dide.wv.gov.