CHARLESTON, W.VA. — The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department reported Wednesday a sixth worker at a eating establishment in the Kanawha Valley has been diagnosed with hepatitis A.
The person worked at the Cold Spot on West Washington Street in Charleston. Family members and co-workers were vaccinated as a precaution. The health department said it found no unsafe food handling practices at the restaurant.
The news of the latest hepatitis A case came on the same day as the health department’s second vaccination clinic for Kanawha and Putnam county food service workers.
So far, two clinics have been held in Charleston, and on Thursday, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will hold another in Cross Lanes at the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Detachment on 917 Cross Lanes Dr.
Two more clinics are scheduled for Putnam County later this week.
The first vaccination clinic drew over 500 food-service workers from around the Charleston area, and the KCHD is looking for the same turn out in the other clinics.
“We feel the need, that in Kanawha and Putnam County, is for food-service workers as well the public, but in order to hit everybody and make sure that the times are allotted and that the reference and resources are there, we needed as many clinics as possible,” Christina Hinkle. director of clinical services at the KCHD, said at Wednesday’s clinic held at the Charleston Civic Center.
Food-service workers have been the primary group affected by the virus, and the KCHD is working to prevent more cases and to stop the spread through the vaccination clinics.
“As the restaurants pop up with a case, we are going out there readily available,” Hinkle said. “We have teams. We have triage. We’ve teamed up with Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authorities to have an outreach team, as well.”
While multiple eateries have had employees diagnosed with hepatitis A, a case of the illness being spread to those dining has not been reported according to the KCHD.
“We have been very, very lucky in that, and I know the risk is very minimal at this point to have that reflected upon a customer; however, we just want to be safe than sorry,” Hinkle said.
Many employees from various restaurants in the area were ready to roll their sleeves up to receive their vaccinations during this week’s clinics.
Jeff Vilcinskas works at Captain D’s in Cross Lanes and got his shot at Wednesday’s clinic at the Civic Center. He wanted to receive the vaccine “just to be protected and provide better service at work”.
Though the outbreak seems to be centralized to those working in restaurants, Hinkle recommends that everyone take the shot.
“I would definitely recommend this for anybody in the Kanawha and Putnam Area, let alone West Virginia, but definitely recommending it for everybody,” she said.
The KCHD is following CDC protocol that advises a series of shots to ensure citizens are protected from hepatitis A for life. The second vaccine is given six months after the first.
“We do definitely recommend getting the second to ensure that lifetime immunity,” said Hinkle.
Those looking to get their second round of the shot can schedule an appointment with the KCHD, and people getting the vaccinations at the recent clinics should remember to follow up in November with their sequence of shots.
Story by Jordyn Johnson