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L.A. County weighs foodserver vaccinations

In light of recent infection threats for guests including a Wolfgang Puck catering employee stricken with hepatitis A, Los Angeles County public health officials agreed yesterday to determine the feasibility of requiring vaccinations against hepatitis A for all foodservice workers, including catering staff.

L.A. supervisor Mike Antonovich directed the Department of Public Health to determine if hepatitis vaccinations could be required of all foodservice employees and what the cost would be to Los Angeles County. Public health officials will return to the board of supervisors within 30 days with their report.

CATER DANGER?

As reported in last week's Eventline, the L.A. County Department of Public Health urged guests at several parties catered by Los Angeles-based WPC to get a shot by Feb. 28 to protect against the threat of hepatitis A infection posed by an ill prep cook. The suspect events included the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue party Feb. 14 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood; the Academy Awards Governors Ball, which WPC catered 11 days later, was not implicated. The health department acted in response to an alert from WPC that one of its employees had fallen ill. People who have been exposed to hepatitis A should receive an immune globulin shot within 14 days to prevent illness.

The proposal is already controversial. Not only would the cost of the vaccinations be high--possibly as much as $200 a shot--but experts debate how effective vaccination is. Even after being vaccinated, workers might have their hands contaminated by exposure to an ill family member and then pass the infection along to guests.

Further, the actual risk of passing infection on to others remains low, according to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, L.A. County director of public health.

For a fact sheet on hepatitis A and foodservice workers, click here.

Photo by iStockphoto.com/© George Mattei

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