9th food worker in eastern Kentucky county diagnosed with hepatitis A

ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) — Another food service worker in Boyd County was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

Officials with the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department reported an employee at the Tudor’s Biscuit World in the 2000 block of Winchester Ave. was diagnosed Tuesday.

This makes the 9th case in Boyd County as part of this outbreak.

According to the Tudor’s Corporate Office, the last shift the employee worked was Friday, May 25. The employee was recently hired part-time.

The risk for infection is “very low” according to the health department.

All employees will be required to get the hepatitis A vaccine before returning to work. Health officials are working with the restaurant staff to prevent any new cases.

“It is important for the public to understand that the hepatitis A virus has not been found to be in food from restaurants during this outbreak,” health officials stated. “Currently, the method of transmission is person-to-person.”

However, health officials say it’s “imperative” that people practice strict hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating, after using the restroom, or touching items like grocery carts, door handles, gas pump handles, etc. Hand sanitizer will not kill the virus.

Tudor’s released this statement:

“As a member of the area food service industry, we have been working with, and receiving direction, from the local Health Department since we were first made aware of the hepatitis A outbreak in Kentucky. As a result, to protect our customers and our employees, we arranged for all of our Ashland employees to receive the antivirus shot, re-educated our employees about the importance of washing their hands with soap throughout the day and continued to educate all of our employees companywide through a direct memo from our company owner as well as through our corporate newsletter. Since then, upon being made aware that an employee was actually diagnosed with the virus, we first immediately closed the store for a complete storewide cleaning and disinfection per Health Department guidelines. We also sent our Corporate Director of Training and Development from WV to the Ashland location to verify that handwashing and food preparation and safety procedures were being followed completely and we also sent the Corporate Franchise Quality Control Inspector to ensure that all sanitation efforts are up to standard. The recently hired part-time employee in question displayed no symptoms of any kind during the approximate two weeks of their employment and the last shift on site by this employee was Friday, May 25th.”

Symptoms of hepatitis A include loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown colored urine, light colored stools, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. Health officials say people can have some or none of these symptoms and it can take up to 50 days after exposure for someone to become ill. However, most people notice symptoms within 28 to 30 days of exposure.

Earlier this month a worker at O’Charley’s, located at 461 River Hill Drive, was diagnosed.

Before that, officials with the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department said an employee at the McDonald’s in the 2000 block of Winchester Ave. in Ashland was diagnosed.

“McDonald’s is working with the health department to prevent any new cases from arising in the community as a result of this case,” health department officials wrote in a press release at the time.

Health department officials said all employees at the McDonald’s got the hepatitis A vaccine prior to the employee being diagnosed. The person who was diagnosed also had the vaccine.

McDonald’s previously created a policy requiring all workers to get the hepatitis A vaccine.

The Winchester Ave. location voluntarily closed for disinfection after becoming aware of the diagnosed case.

Even earlier this month, an employee who handled food at RJ Kahuna’s on U.S. 60 in Ashland was diagnosed with the disease, according to the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department.

Officials at the health department investigated and the risk of customers becoming infected was “very low.”

All of the restaurant’s employees were required to get the hepatitis A vaccine before returning to work. RJ Kahuna’s voluntarily closed to allow for the employees’ vaccinations to develop an immunity.

“RJ Kahuna’s is working with the health department to prevent any new cases from arising in the community as a result of this case,” health officials stated in a press release.

At the beginning of the month, health officials reported an employee who handled food at the Dairy Queen on 13th Street in Ashland was diagnosed.

“The investigation found that the risk of restaurant patrons becoming infected is very low,” health officials stated in a press release. “Dairy Queen is working with the health department to prevent any new cases from arising in the community as a result of this case.”

Dairy Queen released the following statement:

“We have received notification that one of our employees fell ill and tested positive with the Hepatitis A virus. With the health and safety of our customers and employees being paramount, the store was immediately sanitized and disinfected, in accordance with health department regulations. In addition, we have also put additional procedures in place to ensure employees are adhering to strict health and sanitation policies. Store ownership and management will continue to work closely with Ashland-Boyd County Health Department officials.

Employees received a Hepatitis A vaccination or will be receiving the Hepatitis A vaccination before returning to work.

Please know that the health and safety of our customers and employees is a top priority.”

The Kentucky Department for Public Health recommended that anyone who lives in Boyd, Carter, Greenup, Hardin, Bullitt, and Jefferson counties get the vaccine.

“Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness,” stated Dr. Jeffrey Howard, acting DPH commissioner. “DPH recommends all children, ages 1 year through 18, receive the Hepatitis A vaccine as well as adults who want to protect themselves from an acute hepatitis A infection. In these counties with local transmission of the hepatitis A virus, we recommend everyone be vaccinated per guidelines to help stop this outbreak.”

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