AKRON, Ohio, Aug. 15, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Media outlets in towns large and small across America are reporting an increasing number of hepatitis A virus cases and outbreaks – mostly among at-risk groups, such as people experiencing homelessness or people who use drugs.1Florida recently declared a public health emergency in response to an increase in hepatitis A virus cases in their state, as did the city of Philadelphia. Overall, since the current outbreaks across the U.S. were first identified in 2016, there have been nearly 24,000 cases reported across 29 states, with 60 percent hospitalized and more than 230 deaths.2

Practicing good hand hygiene is essential to illness prevention. Always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, making sure to rub your whole hand, including both sides of your hands, in between your fingers and especially your fingertips.

As a person infected with hepatitis A is contagious two weeks before showing symptoms, and not everyone infected by the virus will have symptoms, news headlines sometimes include public health alerts that a restaurant worker may have unknowingly exposed their customers to hepatitis A by showing up to work contagious.

«Foodservice locations in areas that are experiencing a hepatitis A virus outbreak should review their food safety plan and follow established procedures set for foodborne pathogens,» Chip Manuel, Ph.D., food safety science advisor at GOJO. «Don’t risk your businesses reputation or the health of your customers and workers. Restaurant operators and managers should educate their staff about the virus and its’ symptoms, emphasize good hygiene practices, be vigilant about safe food handling practices, and if budget allows, consider administering a vaccine campaign. Additionally, as per the FDA Food Code, infected food handlers should be excluded from duties that involve contact with food for at least 1-2 weeks after the onset of jaundice or until symptoms resolve.»3

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis A virus is a highly contagious liver infection primarily spread through ingestion of fecal matter found on contaminated hands, food, drinks, or surfaces, though it can also be spread through intimate contact.4 The virus can cause a range of illness from a mild condition lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.5 Typical symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, and jaundice, and usually last less than two months. Symptoms are treated through proper hydration, nutrition and rest.

Steps to Reduce the Spread of Hepatitis A Virus:

  1. Vaccination is the best way to prevent contracting hepatitis A virus and is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for those at high risk or travel to countries with a high incidence of disease.6 (Hepatitis A has only been part of the recommended vaccine schedule for children since 2006, so many adults remain unvaccinated.)
  2. Practice good hand hygiene. After using the restroom or changing a diaper, or before eating or preparing food, always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, making sure to rub your whole hand, including both sides of your hands, in between your fingers and especially your fingertips. Food workers have additional times to wash hands, such as before putting on disposable gloves, handling or serving food, or cleaning equipment.
  3. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as public restrooms. Because the hepatitis A virus is quite resistant7 and can live outside the body for months,8 it should be ensured that the disinfectant used to clean high touch point surfaces is EPA-approved and demonstrates hepatitis A virus efficacy, such as PURELL® Surface Disinfecting Spray or PURELL® Foodservice Surface Sanitizer, which kills hepatitis A virus in 60 seconds.

PURELL® Foodservice Surface Sanitizer is a one-step sanitizer and cleaner that is powerful enough to kill hepatitis A virus in 60 seconds and norovirus in 30 seconds, but gentle enough to use on a child’s booster seat or a food prep surface, with no rinse required. It’s proven effective on most hard and soft surfaces, and its light, fragrance-free scent is ideal for use around guests. It holds the coveted EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) Certification, and as it contains no harsh chemicals, no handwashing is required after use.

For the latest information on the national hepatitis A virus outbreak, visit the CDC site. Foodservice locations, download the «Hepatitis A Virus: A Significant Foodborne Pathogen» whitepaper for more information on how to protect your establishment, customers and staff from the virus, and visit http://gojo.com/en/Illness-Outbreak-Response/Hep-A for more prevention tips.

About GOJO
GOJO, the inventor of PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, is the leading global producer and marketer of skin health and hygiene solutions for away-from-home settings. The broad GOJO product portfolio includes hand cleaning, handwashing, hand sanitizing, skin care formulas and surface sprays under the GOJO®, PURELL® and PROVON® brand names. GOJO formulations use the latest advances in the science of skin care and sustainability. GOJO is known for state-of-the-art dispensing technology, engineered with attention to design, sustainability, and functionality. GOJO programs promote healthy behaviors for hygiene, skin care and compliance in critical environments. GOJO is a family enterprise headquartered in Akron, Ohio, with operations in the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and Canada. Learn more about GOJO.

1. Retrieved on Aug. 8, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/outbreaks/HepAOutbreaks.htm
2. Retrieved on Aug. 15, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/outbreaks/2017March-HepatitisA.htm 
3. Retrieved on Aug. 15, 2019. www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/UCM595140.pdf 
4. Retrieved on Aug. 8, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#overview 
5. Retrieved on Aug. 8, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#overview 
6. Retrieved on Aug. 8, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/outbreaks/FAQs-HepAOutbreaks.htm 
7. Cook, N. et al. (2018). Persistence of Hepatitis A Virus in Fresh Produce and Production Environments, and the Effect of Disinfection Procedures: A Review. Food Environ Virol. 10(3): 253-262. doi: 10.1007/s12560-018-9349-1.
8. Retrieved on Aug. 8, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#B6

A person infected with hepatitis A is contagious two weeks before showing symptoms.

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