Hepatitis A is contagious but preventable

Hepatitis A has been in the news often take steps to keep it away from you and your food.

Recently there have been several stories in my local news about hepatitis A. Hepatitis A (HAV) is a highly contagious disease that attacks your liver. If you contract HAV you are most likely to be contagious two weeks before the onset of symptoms and up to one week afterward, according to the Michigan Restaurant Association. To make matters worse, not everyone who is infected will have all of the symptoms listed here if they become ill:

  • Jaundice (yellowing skin and whites of eyes)
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Run down/fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Aching joints
  • Dark colored urine
  • Pale or clay-colored feces

Hepatitis A is most often found in the feces of people who are infected with it, according to the CDC. It is spread from person to person by putting something in their mouth that has been contaminated with the feces, usually from poor personal hygiene. Examples can include sharing towels, cigarettes, toothbrushes, eating utensils or through IV drug use. HAV can also be spread by consuming food or beverages that have been handled by an infected person. Dirty water has also been linked to this virus, make sure you purchase produce and shellfish from reputable suppliers.

There is a vaccine that can prevent infection and is recommended for food workers. There are no medicines that can cure the disease once symptoms appear. It is important to know once someone is ill from this disease, they should seek medical care, most are able to recover on their own and some may need hospitalization. 

If you work in the food service industry or volunteer around food, it is very important to let your manager know if you have any of the symptoms listed above before working with food. Failure to do so could result in the spreading of this very contagious virus.

Michigan State University Extension provides food safety classes in a number of venues to create awareness about personal hygiene. These programs are designed for both food industry works and volunteers. If you do not see what you need on the Food Safety page linked here please contact your local MSU Extension county office to learn more. It is very important to be aware of the hygiene guidelines and regulatory laws when it comes to hepatitis A.

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