Health dept: We balance public’s need to know with needs of business; 20 sick with Hepatitis A in Illinois

KWQC is reporting that two workers at the Milan, Illinois, McDonald’s tested positive for Hepatitis A but TV6 has learned one of those tests came back a month ago.

Even though the first case was confirmed back in mid-June, the Rock Island County Health Department didn’t close the McDonald’s until this past Wednesday. By then, another case had been confirmed.

The health department now says it didn’t respond back then because it didn’t know back then. The health department says it didn’t find out about the case on June 9th until July 10th, a month later.

By law, the health department should have been notified within 24 hours. At a press conference Saturday afternoon, health department staff said the system broke down.

Wendy Trute with the Health Department said,

"There’s a network of providers and there’s a whole list of people responsible for reporting infectious diseases or communicable diseases."

The Health Department also says in addition to the two confirmed cases at the Milan McDonalds, there are also confirmed hepatitis A cases involving other local businesses.

We then asked which businesses, Trute said,

"You know what? It’s not our policy to name them, nor is it the policy of the state health department. However, I can assure you we have worked with them and they have taken all the necessary pre-cautions required of them."

As far as communicating details to the public, the Health Department says it tries to balance the public’s need to know with the needs of any business that may be involved.

There are 20 confirmed Hepatitis A case in Rock Island and surrounding areas, with 11 people being hospitalized.

If you’re sick, stay at home

"In this outbreak, vomiting by a line cook at the work station might have contributed to transmission … Because of the open physical layout of the restaurant, no barrier impeded airborne spread of the virus from the kitchen to the main dining area."

Or so concludes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in its write-up of a Jan. 2006 norovirus outbreak in Michigan (it was a Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Lansing, Mich.) in which "at least 364 restaurant patrons became ill with gastroenteritis after dining at a restaurant where employees had reported to work while ill."

At the time of the outbreak, a food service employee in Lansing wrote that, "What happened at Carrabba’s could occur at any of our local eateries. Not because their kitchens are not clean, not because they don’t follow all of the safety standards, but because sick employees report to work. There is an internal peer pressure to report to work even when you are ill, not to mention that a day without pay can be crucial for some families."

As I wrote in Feb. 2006,

The industry spokesthingies may say that sick employees should not work, but the reality is, no work, no pay. So, for the food industry, tell your sick employees to stay at home, and perhaps even provide incentives, like allowing for a couple of sick days. The cost of a few workers abusing the system pales in comparison to the lawsuits and lost business.

Following the outbreak, the Barry-Eaton District Health Department (where Lansing, MI, is located) issued four recommendations (based on previously published guidelines) for infection control and environmental decontamination after any vomiting incident in a food-service establishment (what to do after someone barfs):

• Any exposed food or single-service articles (e.g., drinking straws, takeout containers, and paper napkins) should be discarded, and all surface areas within at least a 25-foot radius of the vomiting site should be disinfected with a bleach solution;

• ill employees should be excluded from work for at least 72 hours after symptoms subside, and employees returning after a gastrointestinal illness should be restricted from handling kitchenware or ready-to-eat food for an additional 72 hours;

• because thorough disinfection might be necessary, partial or complete closure of the food establishment should be considered after a vomiting incident

• restrooms used during or after a vomiting incident should be closed immediately until they are disinfected properly with bleach solution.

It’s OK, he’s wearing oven mitts

The Edmonton Sun reports Adam Duerr got salmonella from his girlfriend.

An inspector with Capital Health visited Duerr while working at his food service gig at The Italian Bakery in April and told them Duerr could not return to work until getting two negative tests for the bacteria.

He went back to work anyway.

When confronted by a health inspector,  Renato Frattin, an owner-manager of the bakery, told the inspector the worker wore oven mitts while removing loaves of bread from the oven and placing them on cooling racks.

Frattin and Duerr were both fined $1,150 in court yesterday after pleading to the same charge.

Yes, people will abuse the system, but sick employees should stay at home.