Tuesday, July 21, 2009
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Statewide public health response to hepatitis A outbreak in Rock Island County

2 from Logan County Dept. of Public Health assisting

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[July 21, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Department of Public Health Director Damon T. Arnold on Monday announced the activation of the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System to assist the Rock Island County Health Department with a vaccination clinic in response to a hepatitis A outbreak. A food service worker employed by the McDonald’s restaurant in Milan and diagnosed with hepatitis A was reported to have worked during his or her infectious period and handled food items that were not subsequently cooked.

InsuranceThe Rock Island County Health Department, with assistance from the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System, the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team and the Illinois Nurse Volunteer Emergency Needs Team, started the vaccination clinic on Monday and will continue on Tuesday.

Hepatitis A vaccinations and immune globulin will be administered at no charge to eligible recipients, who meet the following criteria: consumed food or beverages at McDonald’s Restaurant in Milan from July 6 through July 10 and July 13 and 14. (People eating there on July 11 and 12 were not exposed.)

People who consumed products from this restaurant during this time period will receive either hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, not both.

  • Ages 1-40 years will receive hepatitis A vaccine.

  • Under 1 year of age, and over 40 years of age, will receive immune globulin.

If a person has previously received two doses of hepatitis A vaccine, no further immunization or immune globulin is necessary -- they are already protected from hepatitis A. In addition, if someone has been ill in the past from hepatitis A, they would not become ill from it again -- their body would have developed immunity. If a person receives this vaccine or immune globulin more than 14 days after they have eaten at Milan McDonald’s, it may not provide protection.

To date, local health departments have reported 18 confirmed cases of hepatitis A to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver and occurs 15 to 50 days after exposure to an infected food item or person. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dark-colored urine and yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes.

If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor or a medical professional. However, people who are infected with hepatitis A may have no symptoms but could still potentially infect others.

"Hepatitis A is a virus that can be carried on the hands of an infected person who does not wash his or her hands thoroughly after using the bathroom," Dr. Arnold said. "You can become infected by direct contact with a person who does not practice good hand hygiene or by consuming food or drink handled by an infected person. Your best defense against getting ill or making others ill is to properly wash your hands -- use soap and warm water and rub your hands for 20 seconds."

Assistance from local health departments for the hepatitis A outbreak was requested through the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System. This system was created in 2004 in an effort to strengthen the public health system’s ability to respond to an emergency. Any local health department in Illinois that has signed an agreement to be part of the system can request assistance from any other local health department in Illinois that has signed the agreement.

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Mark Hilliard, director of the Logan County Department of Public Health, said: "We have sent Shana Bean, our emergency response coordinator, and Michelle Jason, our public health nursing supervisor, in response to a mutual aid request via the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System. Notification of the request for 50 nurses and 50 support staff came via e-mail Saturday. The Rock Island County Health Department is anticipating vaccinating as many as 10,000 over the next couple of days.

"Shana, in addition to assisting with support services, will be observing the operation of the mass vaccination clinic, to better prepare Logan County should we find ourselves in a similar situation and also to better prepare us for future exercises designed around a similar event. Michelle, a nurse, will be assisting with the vaccinations. At the LCDPH these two play critical roles on our preparedness team. Shana, as our liaison officer/planning section chief, is charged with establishing and maintaining contact with all cooperating agencies and directing the Logan County Medical Reserve Corps, as well as developing and adapting emergency preparedness and response plans as necessary; while Michelle, as our operations section chief, is charged with overseeing and coordinating the dispensing site.

"This response has come at a difficult time with cutbacks necessitated by the state fiscal crisis. Public health response is never required at a convenient time, and this event reinforces the need for adequate funding for public health, specifically the local health protection grant local health departments receive from the state of Illinois."

Wendy Trute, administrator for the Rock Island County Health Department, said: "We are very fortunate to have a public health mutual aid system in place in Illinois and to have conducted and participated in full-scale exercises for large clinics in recent years. Because of this, RICHD has been able to put our pre-existing plans into action in order to meet the public health needs of our community quickly. We are very thankful for the outpouring of additional help from agencies throughout the state of Illinois and Rock Island County’s community partners throughout the Quad Cities during this hepatitis A outbreak."

In addition, approximately 25 nurses and support staff from the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team and the Illinois Nurse Volunteer Emergency Needs Team are assisting in the administration of vaccine and immune globulin. Both teams are volunteer organizations with all levels of emergency medical personnel as well as individuals with backgrounds in logistics, communications, safety, and information technologies. It is their mission to respond to and assist with emergency medical treatment during emergencies.

For additional information on hepatitis A, go to www.idph.state.il.us.

[Text from Illinois Department of Public Health file; Mark Hilliard, director, Logan County Department of Public Health; LDN]

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