When the first case of hepatitis a was announced at a Jonesboro restaurant last year, all employees at Terry’s Café in Paragould decided to get Hepatitis A vaccinations.
“We don’t want anybody to get sick when they eat here. We want to present a clean atmosphere to them. Where they can come and enjoy and know their food is safe,” says Farrell Gibson, who owns Terry’s Café. He adds that “it just takes one case that can ruin your business.”
State representative jack Ladyman is now working with the Arkansas Department of Health to propose a bill to make Hepatitis A vaccinations a requirement for food industry workers, in counties where two or more cases of hepatitis a are reported.
Ladyman says “that would or should prevent hepatitis a to be transferring to customers in a restaurant.” Ladyman adds that “I think it would help the restaurant, as well as the individual eating out, if people feel that, hey, these workers are protected.”
Representative Ladyman’s bill doesn’t just apply to restaurants, but to any business where employees handle food. Which means that workers in delis at supermarkets, and at school cafeterias would be required to receive hepatitis a vaccinations as well.
The A-D-H confirmed over three hundred cases of hepatitis a across the region and plans to provide vaccinations free of charge.
“In some cases, it can be very serious, and people can die from it,” says Jennifer Dillaha, who serves as Medical Director of Immunizations at the Arkansas Department of Health. “It’s fortunate that Hepatitis A disease can be prevented after someone has been exposed, if they get that vaccine within two weeks of exposure.”
Once passed, Representative Ladyman’s bill could go into effect by July.