Recent scares about the spread of hepatitis A have resulted in thousands of preventative shots and a debate about how to prevent the spread of disease in food service.
Up to 17,000 people are sickened with hepatitis A every year, according to the CDC. The virus is spread when someone ingests fecal material from someone with the infection -- it’s highly contagious, and although it usually results in a few weeks of illness, it can be fatal.
Hepatitis A is of particular issue in food service, where someone with the illness might spread it rapidly through every piece of food they touch.
The CDC has, until now, not recommended that food workers be vaccinated against hep A because outbreaks are so rare, but the infection pool has changed over the years as children began to receive vaccines for the infection at age one.
The result of changes to the vaccine is an unprotected group of adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s -- notably an age range likely to work and eat in restaurants.
Many medical specialists argue that mandatory vaccines for food workers would stop outbreaks and is worth the investment. Critics argue that it would violate the rights of employees to mandate a vaccine, and would come at a cost to the restaurant -- the shots cost up to $200 per person.
Should vaccines for contagious, preventable illnesses be mandatory for food workers? Is it a violation of their privacy or rights? How should restaurants prevent the spread of hepatitis A?
Dorit Reiss, Professor of Law at University of California Hastings College of Law
Catherine Adams Hutt, consultant to the National Restaurant Association, president of RdR Solutions, a food regulatory consulting firm