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An Important Message to Retail Food Service Establishments about SC Hepatitis A Outbreak

Thursday, June 6, 2019  
Posted by: Douglas OFlaherty
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DHEC declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A on May 13, 2019. This outbreak primarily involves individuals in high-risk categories including drug users, people who are homeless, men who have sex with men or those who have a recent history of incarceration. DHEC encourages individuals to seek hepatitis A vaccination, particularly persons who are known to be at increased risk of being infected.


In response to this outbreak, DHEC has asked the SCRLA to provide the following guidance to operators of permitted retail food facilities. Your assistance will help prevent additional illnesses and possible cases at your food establishment. With your assistance, we can stop the spread of hepatitis A as well as help keep your employees and customers



Post This Notification

Print and post this sign to educate your managers and employees in areas that your employees will see it. Such as: employee break rooms, restrooms and time clock areas. 


What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is highly contagious and causes disease of the liver. People infected with HAV are most contagious from two weeks before onset of symptoms to one week after the onset of symptoms. People usually become sick within two to six weeks after being exposed. Not everyone who is infected will have all the symptoms listed below. 


Symptoms of hepatitis A can include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing skin and whites of eyes)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue/tired
  • Pale or clay colored stool
  • Loss of appetite


How is HAV spread?

  • Most people get hepatitis A by person-to-person contact with someone who has the infection or through eating or drinking food or water contaminated by an infected person.
  • People can also get hepatitis A through sex or by close contact with an infected person, such as a household member.
  • Certain adults who may be at higher risk for hepatitis A include:

o   People who use injection or non-injection drugs

o   People who are homeless

o   People who are or recently were incarcerated

o   Men who have sex with men

o   People who are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common


How is HAV treated or HAV Infection prevented?

  • The best way to prevent HAV infection is to get vaccinated.

o   Individuals can talk to their medical provider or local pharmacy about getting the HAV vaccine.

§  In South Carolina, adults 18 years and older can get vaccinated at some local pharmacies without a prescription, depending on your insurance coverage. To search for a nearby pharmacy that offers vaccines, visit .

o   DHEC has an Adult Vaccine Program that provides low-cost vaccines for uninsured or underinsured individuals who are 19 years and older.

o   DHEC’s local health departments are also currently providing no-cost hepatitis A vaccines to individuals in high-risk groups (drug users, homeless, recently incarcerated,and men who have sex with men).

o   To schedule an appointment for vaccination at your local health department, call855-472-3432 or visit .

  • People exposed to HAV should receive vaccine or immune globulin within 14 days of their exposure to help prevent them from developing symptoms.
  • No medicines can cure the disease once symptoms appear. People with HAV symptoms should seek medical care.
  • Most people get better over time but some may need to be hospitalized.
  • Previous infection by HAV gives immunity from future infection.


How can you reduce the chance of HAV transmission in your food facility?

  • Ensure employees know to report any illness symptoms to you, including onset of diarrhea, jaundice or others listed above.
  • For employees in a high-risk group, strongly encourage them to get HAV vaccine. See the information above regarding where to get the HAV vaccine.
  • Consider HAV vaccination for all employees
  • Download, print and post this sign to educate your managers and employees in areas that your employees will see it. Such as: employee break rooms, restrooms and time clock areas. 


What should you do if you find out about an infected food worker or have a worker with the symptoms listed above?

  • Follow the requirements of R. 61-25, 2-201.12 (B)(1-3) regarding restriction and exclusion of infected workers.
  • Send the worker home immediately and follow the requirements of R. 61-25, 2-201.13 (B)(1-3) on
  • when the employee can return to work.


What should you expect if you have an HAV positive employee?

  • Operators will be asked to provide information on the employee’s work schedule, duties, co-workers and possibly other records.
  • HAV vaccine is recommended for other food handlers at the same food establishment. Operators may need to work with DHEC to ensure vaccination of other employees.
  • If there is a concern for HAV transmission, a notification identifying the food establishment may be sent to consumers to provide recommendations for hepatitis A vaccination.


For more information on hepatitis A and the current outbreak, please visit:

CDC hepatitis A information:

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