Prevention of Hepatitis A through Food Handler Immunization
The number of cases of hepatitis A in the United States is decreasing as the result of adoption of universal childhood vaccination guidelines. Nevertheless, hepatitis A outbreaks occur regularly because of food handlers working while contagious. Infected food handlers can spread potentially deadly disease to co-workers and customers. Even without evidence of disease spread, hepatitis A scares can impose a significant financial burden to food establishments. Hepatitis A outbreak prevention should include vaccinating food handlers against the disease.
In the past, the economic burden of immunization has prevented mandatory vaccination policies in the food industry. However, as the majority of persons entering the food service industry in the coming years will already be vaccinated, this is likely to change. Further, hepatitis A is likely to be targeted for eradication in the United States. Past experience has demonstrated that eradication campaigns aggressively target all potential routes of spread, and the food industry should be cognizant of the potential for changes in immunization policy.
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