Thought for food: Hepatitis vaccines promote safety

Mary Cornforth
Mary Cornforth

Retail foot outlets in Mesa County strive every day to ensure the health and safety of the customers they serve. While consumers might take for granted the precautions and care that go into preparing and serving their favorite meals, businesses depend on their confidence and trust.

One of the ways the retail food industry ensures safety is to prevent the spread of hepatitis A. What’s hepatitis A? It’s a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The infection can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. The virus spreads easily because hepatitis A can be in your system for two weeks before you show symptoms, and not everyone who has the virus shows symptoms.  Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, gray colored stools, joint pain and jaundice.

Rest assured, food handlers aren’t at higher risk of getting hepatitis A. But they are at higher risk of spreading the disease than others.

Hepatitis A is commonly spread when a person ingests fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from contact with food or drinks contaminated by feces from another person. Food handlers could accidentally spread the virus through they food the handle if they practice poor hygiene, potentially spreading the disease to hundreds of people during just one shift.

How can food handlers reduce their risk of spreading hepatitis A? For starters, by getting vaccinated. Monique Mull, consumer protection manager at Mesa County Public Health, encourages retail food businesses to promote hepatitis A vaccinations for their staffs. “When food handlers are vaccinated, not only are they protected from getting the illness, they also cannot infect others with the virus.”

The Mesa County Public Health Clinic located at 510 29 1/2 Road in Grand Junction provides the hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective.

Mesa County Public Health also offers a food handler’s class the first Monday of every month, making it easy for food handlers to schedule an appointment to get the vaccination following class.

Other precautions that can prevent spreading the virus include:

Never work while you’re ill with fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or diarrhea.  If you have any of these symptoms, report them to MCPH at 254-4120.

Practice proper hand-washing techniques, especially after using the restroom. Scrub hands together for 30 seconds, paying close attention to your nails and cuticles. Rinse hands well and dry with a paper towel, then use the towel to turn off the faucet so clean hands don’t touch the faucet.

Wear gloves when handling or preparing ready to eat foods. Keep in mind that a fresh pair of gloves must be used each time a food handler uses the restroom, whenever gloves have been used to touch items other than food and after touching raw proteins. Remember, though, that gloves aren’t a substitute for hand washing. Always wash your hands before using gloves.

The hepatitis A vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease.  The Mesa County Public Health Clinic serves all patients regardless of ability to pay and accepts all major health insurance plans — including Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. The clinic also offers programs for those without insurance. For more information about hepatitis A or to schedule an appointment, visit or call 248-6900.