The investigation and response to two cases of hepatitis A in delis workers at the Real Canadian Superstore in Sudbury are ongoing with Public Health Sudbury & Districts.

Dr. Ariella Zbar, Sudbury & Districts Associate Medical Officer of Health says since the second case was announced last Thursday, they have seen almost 650 people for immunization and seen 2,835 others with more calling in for information.

She adds to date there are no laboratory-confirmed reports of illness related to consumption of food from the deli.

Dr. Zbar stresses anyone who consumed clerk-served deli meat or cheese, or meat and cheese purchased from the store between November 27 and January 2 may be at risk of hepatitis A infection and should watch for symptoms.

She adds those people who have eaten this food within the last 14 days are eligible for immunization.

Public health inspectors and nurses are conducting thorough investigations and follow up of these hepatitis A cases,” said Stacey Laforest, Sudbury & Districts Director of Health Protection. “This is a dynamic situation, and as we learn more, we are able to take additional steps to protect the public. For example, through follow up on the second case, additional information was shared with us about the specific work of food handlers and of the hepatitis A risk for certain workers. This has meant additional restrictions on how the deli food is handled and on some workers’ activities,” said Laforest.

Hepatitis A can survive for long periods outside of the body and it is known as a hardy virus. Public Health Sudbury & Districts states that this, combined with its long incubation period, means that other cases of hepatitis A may occur.

“This is unfortunate but not unexpected given that people can be infectious even when they do not have any symptoms,” said Laforest. “The actions of Public Health to control the spread of hepatitis A will reduce the risks of the spread of hepatitis A, but unfortunately the risk cannot be reduced to zero,” she added.

Common symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, stomach pain or discomfort, dark urine, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, loss of appetite, clay or ash-coloured bowel movements, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).

Hepatitis A is an illness that is easily spread from person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. The virus is found in the feces and blood of a person infected with the virus, and one common route of exposure can be food contaminated by infected food handlers. This can occur by directly handling already cooked or ready-to-eat foods with unclean bare hands or through food contact with dirty gloves. It is also spread through close personal contact with an infected person, such as through having sex, sharing cigarettes or e-cigarettes, caring for someone who is ill, or using drugs with others.

 

Hepatitis A can be avoided by:

Not working in a food service setting if you are a food handler experiencing symptoms.

Not handling or preparing food for anyone if you are ill.

Washing your hands often and thoroughly using soap and water. This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food.

If wearing gloves, change them often. Gloves cannot be washed and reused.

Avoiding sharing common items such as cups and finger foods (for example, popcorn).

Always washing fresh fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and lettuce.

By the numbers:

As of January 6, 1958 clients have contacted Public Health for information about the illness and hepatitis A vaccination.

On December 15, 2019, Public Health was notified of the first case of hepatitis A in a food handler in deli of the Real Canadian Superstore, Sudbury. On January 1, 2020, the agency was notified of a second case in a food handler in the deli at the store.

To date (January 6, at 2 p.m.), 2835 hepatitis A vaccine doses were provided (2182 adult and 653 pediatric [less than 18 years of age]) at Public Health clinics.

For more information, call 705.522.9200, ext. 484.