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Health & Science

Hepatitis A Vaccination Clinics To Be Held At A-State

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Faculty, staff, and students who ate in the Acansa Dining Hall in the Carl R. Reng Student Union  from October 13th through October 24th are encouraged to get a vaccine shot for possible Hepatitis A exposure.  Possible Hepatitis A exposure was also reported at the Jonesboro Salvation Army.  

Officials at Arkansas State were notified late Wednesday about the possible exposure.  The university’s food service provider, Sodexo, reported one of its workers tested positive for Hepatitis A.  After the report, university officials conferred with Sodexo to review procedures for handling this type of situation.  Sodexo Director of Operations at Arkansas State is Michael Wonderly.

“We immediately contacted the university to start the procedure at our end.   That worker was removed from the building and made sure that everything was in place.”

Wonderly says the worker did follow protocol by wearing gloves following proper handwashing techniques.  Wonderly says the next steps included turning over to the Arkansas Department of Health the dates and hours the worker was at the cafeteria, as well as making sure all workers in the cafeteria were given Hepatitis A vaccines.  Sodexo safety officials inspected all areas and sanitized all of the areas. 

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can be prevented by vaccines.  It is spread from person-to-person contact.  The Department of Health has been tracking an outbreak of Hepatitis A in 12 counties in northeast Arkansas.  Greene County has had the most cases. Since February, 178 cases of Hepatitis A have been reported. Dr. Dirk Haselow is the State Epidemiologist with the Arkansas Department of Health.

“All of the states around us are impacted including Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky. In all of the states, risk factors include drug use, high risk sexual activity, people who are homeless, or people who are incarcerated.”

Dr. Shane Speights is the Dean of the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University.  He says the risk of getting Hepatitis A from food service is extremely low and stresses that restaurants follow protocols from the health department about food handling.  He says while there have been reports of workers at restaurants testing positive, the cases lie with the individual workers, not the eating establishments.

“When you talk about the food industry, I think it happens to show up there because of an individual worker that maybe was infected, and didn’t properly follow food handling techniques.”

In response to possible expose, Hepatitis A clinics take place today at the Craighead County Health Department.  Chancellor of Arkansas State University Dr. Kelly Damphousse says the vaccination clinics will also be held on campus next week.

“These clinics will take place Monday and Tuesday for anyone on campus and their family members to get their Hepatitis A vaccines.”

The on campus vaccination clinics will take place on Monday and Tuesday from eight to 4:30 at the Arkansas River Room.  That is located on the third floor of the Carl R. Reng Student Union. The dining hall is open and Damphousse says he is eating there.  Dr. Speights agrees with holding vaccination clinics on campus.  He also says this would not deter him from eating at restaurants and he encourages others to still go out to eat. 

“I know that is usually what happens and restaurants usually take a hit from a reduction of their customers, but it is important to note the Arkansas Department of Health has not closed one single restaurant because of this outbreak.  That is largely because it is person-to-person.  Once that person is taken care of and proper techniques are used, the risk of transmission is extremely low.”

For more information, Arkansas State University established a website at www.astate.edu/HepA.  Also, you can call 870-680-4770.  We will also have links on our website at kasu.org.  SOC