What Food Workers and Establishments Need to Know
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that can infect a person's liver and make them sick for weeks to months. Currently there are outbreaks of hepatitis A across the US. The virus is spread through stool (feces/poop) of people with the virus. People can get hepatitis A by eating food or water contaminated with feces of a person that has the virus, or through person-to-person contact with someone that has the virus.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
Many people don't know they have hepatitis A and can spread the virus without knowing they have it. Symptoms don't usually appear until 15-50 days after the person is infected and some people, especially younger children, get mild or no symptoms. If symptoms develop they can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Dark urine
- Grey-colored poop
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
How can I prevent hepatitis A in food establishments?
Hepatitis A can be prevented in restaurants, grocery stores, and other food establishments by following routine food safety procedures including:
- Only work symptom-free. Food workers that have vomiting, diarrhea, or jaundice MUST stay out of the restaurant until their symptoms have been gone for at least 24 hours. Food service managers that have workers with jaundice must contact the health department.
- Make employees aware of the symptoms of hepatitis A. Employees should be encouraged to notify managers about suspected or confirmed illness. Make sure workers are not embarrassed to talk with managers about symptoms of illness.
- Wash hands. Hands must be washed with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds often throughout the day, especially when entering the kitchen and after going to the restroom.
- Prevent bare hand contact with food. Even people that feel okay and wash often can still have germs on their hands. Use a utensil, such as tongs, scoops, spoons, or disposable gloves to handle people's food to reduce the risk of spreading germs from bare hands.
- Use sanitizers that are effective against hepatitis A. Review cleaning and sanitizing procedures to make sure viruses are not spread throughout the kitchen, restrooms, or dining areas. Have a plan to clean up vomit or diarrhea to keep germs out of the kitchen and make sure staff know proper cleanup procedures.
- Ask questions. Your local health department is eager to help all of us serve safe food with healthy and trained food workers.