What is Hepatitis A?

News of an apparent Hepatitis A outbreak has been making headlines this week. But, what is Hepatitis A? How can it be prevented, and should your restaurant be concerned?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is usually transmitted either through person-to-person contact or through consumption of contaminated food or water.[1]  Typically, uncooked Hepatitis A-contaminated foods are the source of an outbreak; for example, frozen strawberries are the source for this most recent outbreak.[1]  Yet, according to the CDC, cooked foods can also be a source of infection if the temperature during food preparation is inadequate and does not kill the virus, or if food is contaminated after cooking, as is the case with outbreaks associated with infected food handlers.

Hepatitis A is rare in the United States. In fact, according to the CDC, there were an estimated 2,500 acute Hepatitis A infections in the United States in 2014.[1] It is also one of the few foodborne illnesses that can be prevented by vaccination.[2] Yet, outbreaks can happen, and the good news is this foodborne illness is preventable, if certain measures are taken. These include:

  • Washing hands with soap and water – food handlers must always wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and before preparing food
  • Wearing gloves – food handlers should always wear gloves when handling or preparing ready-to-eat foods
  • Staying home when ill – restaurant workers should stay home from work if they are ill[3]

While Hepatitis A is rare and preventable, it is still important to learn the facts about this foodborne illness.

Additional information can be found on the following websites:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Viral Hepatitis – Hepatitis A Information. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/
2. Foodsafety.gov. Hepatitis A. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/hepatitisa/
3. About Hepatitis. How to Prevent Hepatitis Infection. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://www.about-hepatitis.com/hepatitis_prevention#.V-AAHfkrJhE