Another confirmed case of Hepatitis A brings the total number of reported cases in Erie County to 21 this year alone.
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz sent out an advisory Tuesday afternoon notifying all healthcare providers that there are now 21 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A in the county, so far this year.
5 of those cases have been connected to Doino’s Pizzeria Bar & Grille on Harlem Road in Cheektowaga. A cook, infected with Hepatitis A, reportedly served contaminated food at the restaurant. At least 4 people, reporting to have eaten there in recent weeks, tested positive for the disease.
Restaurant owner Eileen Doino told 2 On Your Side’s Ron Plants on Monday that she believes the NYS Department of Health should mandate the Hep-A vaccination of food service workers, “Because if they were, this wouldn’t have happened.”
The state lists only two groups required to get the vaccine; those working with hep-a infected primates and those working with the virus in a laboratory setting. Doctors and nurses aren’t required to get the vaccine.
Hepatitis A is an extremely contagious liver infection. While some people show no symptoms, others have symptoms so severe that it can be deadly.
The state claims only 2-3% of reported Hep-A cases are from contaminated restaurant food. And since turnover in the industry can be high, the state believes it could be impractical to force employers to vaccinate their staff.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports New York’s State stance, and like the state, the CDC website shows they have the same reactive approach to vaccinating food service workers.
In the case of community-wide outbreaks, the federal and state agencies believe they should be vaccinated.
Despite the substantial upswing in numbers this year, Erie County stopped short of calling the latest scare “an outbreak.”
“We recommend that all Erie County residents who have not been fully immunized with the Hepatitis A vaccine to complete the Hepatitis A vaccine series,” Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gail Burstein said.
The Hep-A vaccine is not cheap. The Erie County Health Department recommends calling your insurance company first to see if they will cover the cost of the vaccine. It’s important to keep in mind that the vaccine series comes in two doses, the second after 6 months.
Dr. Burstein says it’s important to go to a doctor’s office, a clinic, or the health department to get your shots because pharmacists aren’t licensed to administer the Hep-A vaccine.
If you have to pay out of pocket, the Erie County Health Department offers the best price, but you need to make an appointment. It costs $50 per dose, plus $17.84 in
administrative fees. The total for two doses is nearly $136.