Food handler at North Carolina Dixie Donuts diagnosed with hepatitis A

If I was a restaurant owner, hepatitis A would scare me the most. Most folks don’t display symptoms right away (up to 30 days after infection) and can be shedding the virus in their poop most of that time. An IGG shot is effective in the first 10 days post-exposure – which means the best public health strategy is to offer these shots (usually to a cost to the restaurant) to reduce the chance of illness, regardless of any actual symptoms. Most of these incidents don’t result in further illnesses (beyond the initial food handler) but create a lot of bad press.

According to the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, an employee of Dixie Donuts on NC 268 West (west of Wilkesboro) has been diagnosed with the virus and line-ups at free clinics Friday and Saturday are likely.

The health department is holding a walk-in clinic for the hepatitis vaccine from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday and from 9 to noon Saturday at the department’s building in Wilkesboro.

The health department learned Thursday morning that a Dixie Donuts employee was diagnosed with hepatitis A on May 13, said health department spokesman Debbie Nicholson, the department’s director of nursing.

Ms. Nicholson said the department learned about the diagnosis of hepatitis A when a communicable disease nurse there checked the N.C. Electronic Disease Surveillance System online. She said the department is required to check the system each day.

The Dixie Donuts employee who was diagnosed with hepatitis A isn’t currently working at the establishment and can’t work there until the person is no longer contagious, said Ms. Nicholson. The diagnosis doesn’t otherwise affect food safety at the business, she said.

Dixie Donuts owner Lee Lassiter said late Thursday afternoon, about two hours after learning about the diagnosis, that the employee was a trainee who had only worked at Dixie Donuts a short time. "We have been in business for over a year and have had no issues with food handling from any agency," he added.

Dixie Donuts was named the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce’s "Small Business of the Year" earlier this year.


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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.