– OPINION –

Good on public health doing good public health.

WDBJ reports that the Virginia Department of Health is offering free Hepatitis A vaccines for restaurant workers.

The Roanoke City Alleghany Health District Director Dr. Cynthia Morrow, says that the Health District will host the vaccination clinic Monday, June 6 at the Williamson Road Branch Library from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Appointments are first come, first served and appointments are preferred, according to the health district. Those who are interested can make an appointment by calling 540-613-6597.

The clinic comes after three local restaurants identified health care workers who were positive for Hepatitis A within the last several months.

Last week I posted: Publisher’s Platform: Please, Roanoke restaurants, whether it is for moral or business reasons, offer hepatitis A vaccinations to your employees.  Here is an offer you can’t refuse. No one took me up on the offer, but here is what I said:

In January of this year the owners of Roanoke’s Famous Anthony’s restaurant filed for bankruptcy for two of their restaurant locations after a hepatitis A outbreak originating from one of their food service workers killed four people, hospitalized 36, sickened 52, with one requiring a liver transplant, and on facing a liver transplant soon. The food service worker who worked at three locations – Grandin Road Extension, Williamson Road and Crystal Spring Avenue – tested positive for the hepatitis a virus and contaminated customers with this human fecal virus.

All preventable by a hepatitis A vaccination – the only foodborne illness that is vaccine preventable.

On May 24th, Roanoke health officials issued an alert following a report about an employee at a Star City restaurant being infected with hepatitis A. The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts (RCHAD) said the report came in on Monday, May 23 involving an employee at Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje in the 400 block of Salem Avenue in Roanoke.  The RCHAD has offered, at taxpayers’ expense, hepatitis A vaccines to anyone who ate at Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje between May 3 and May 15.

This news comes about a week after the RCHAD announced a hepatitis A exposure at Luigi’s Restaurant in Roanoke. Once again, at taxpayer’s expense, the RCHAD offered hepatitis A vaccines to anyone who ate at Luigi’s between the dates of April 26 – May 17.

Hardly a week goes by in the United States that there is not yet another announcement of a hepatitis A positive employee putting co-workers, customers, and the restaurant brand at risk.  There have been countless illnesses, deaths, thousands of customers who have had to stand in long lines to get preventative vaccines, and some restaurants have shuttered. There certainly have been lawsuits.

Over the last decades I have advocated for vaccinating food services workers primarily due to the tragic toll that it takes on customers and their families, but clearly sickening 52, hospitalizing 36 and killing 4 of your customers is bad for business.  And, in Roanoke, on top of the Famous Anthony’s tragedy, we now have hepatitis A scares at Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje and Luigi’s Restaurants.

One would think the Roanoke restaurants would see moral and business reasons to offer food service employees hepatitis A vaccinations.  Perhaps they need some encouragement. So, here is my offer – to every Roanoke restaurant that will offer hepatitis A vaccinations to all present and future employees – I will agree to consult with that restaurant for $1.00 and conflict Marler Clark from being on the opposite side of the courtroom.

This seems like an “offer you can’t refuse.”

Whether or not you take me up on my offer, consider offering to vaccinate your employees anyway – be a food safety leader.  In addition to being the right thing to do during a nation-wide outbreak of hepatitis A, it is good for your employees, your customers, your brand – and, for taking money out of my pocket.

Thanks Dr. Cynthia Morrow.

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