A representative of the Madison County Health Department says hepatitis A cases in the central Kentucky community have likely not peaked. The staff at the health facility are investigating a case of hep A in a food handler who worked while infectious at Sonny’s BBQ in Richmond.
Health Department Public Information Officer Jim Thacker says transmission of the liver disease through ingestion is just one way to contract the illness. “If you go out and pump your own gas, you can get the hepatitis A virus. You can get it from a shopping cart from a supermarket if somebody who’s infected touches those things and you follow behind them and touch them,” said Thacker.
Hepatitis A can then occur if hands are used to eat without thorough hand washing first. The risk to patrons who ate at Sonny’s restaurant is very low. But, people who ate there between Nov. 18 and Dec, 1 should watch for symptoms until Jan. 20. Health officials in Madison County suggest everyone get a hepatitis A vaccination. Health Department Public Information Officer Jim Thacker doesn’t believe the outbreak has peaked yet. “Will we see others in food establishments. We hope not. We certainly won’t rule that out. But we expect the number of cases to go up for a while before they reach their peak and start declining”
A countywide outbreak was declared in late October about the time that the statewide outbreak began. Thacker says thorough hand washing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds is as important to battling hep A as getting the vaccine. Nearly 3,000 people in Kentucky have been infected with hepatitis A. More than half of those have been hospitalized. Health officials report about 18 people have died of the disease. Kentucky has the worst outbreak of hepatitis A in the country.