Restaurants take extra precautions in light of hepatitis A outbreak

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Oahu’s Hepatitis A outbreak is causing some eateries to take extra precautions.

That includes having workers wear gloves and washing their hands more thoroughly.

Tom Frigge runs a business telling workers at restaurants and hotels the dos and don’ts of food safety.

He says the last thing a restaurant wants is to have the virus spread from that establishment. He also recommends that workers get the hepatitis A vaccine.

“It’s really hard to get rid of a hepatitis A outbreak when it gets to an area, and the only way is good hand hygiene,” Frigge said.

He says the hepatitis A outbreak is likely to get worse, so he’s telling his clients to wear gloves when preparing all foods.

“If they don’t do as good a job washing their hands as they should, then the virus particles are still in their hands and when they put the gloves on, that stops the virus particles from getting on the food,” Frigge explained.

He’s also stressing the importance of washing hands the right way, by using warm water with enough soap for a good lather, scrub for at least 20 seconds, and make sure to scrub the fingernails and cuticles.

“If you have a nail brush, use that. That’s a great way to get your hands and your fingertips clean,” Frigge said. “You gotta pay extra special attention to your fingertips, because that’s where germs like to hide and that’s what you touch the food with, is the tip of your fingers.”

The head of the Hawaii Restaurant Association is stressing the same principles. In a statement, Gregg Fraser said, “It’s as simple as frequent hand washing with warm water. Not only wash it in the bathroom, but when you enter the kitchen. There (are) typically 2 or 3 points of hand washing. There is a hand-washing sink in the kitchen as well.”

Frigge says restaurants can take even more precautions.

“If I was a restaurant manager right now, I’d make sure that all of my employees had the vaccine. I’d even pay for it,” he said.

Doctors say in most cases, health insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine. By taking all these added precautions, Frigge says the restaurants can prevent spreading the virus.

KHON2 checked with the health department on what happens now to the infected worker at Baskin Robbins. Officials say she is not allowed to work in any of the food preparation areas until the doctor gives her the clearance.

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