Maine CDC: Hepatitis A epidemic on the rise

LEWISTON, Maine — Maine’s restaurant industry has seen a troubling surge in hepatitis A outbreaks in recent months, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

This alarming trend raises questions about public health and safety.

The latest possible exposure to hepatitis A came to light Tuesday at a restaurant in Lewiston. The incident is the third reported since April, all in Maine.

Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer for the Maine Department of Health, expressed her concerns, saying, “This used to be rare, but now we’re seeing it in Maine over the last five years or so. More cases are arriving.”

The affected restaurant is Marco’s Italian Restaurant in Lewiston, where a part-time employee worked several days while infected.

The person reportedly worked at the restaurant on the following days while infected:

  • September.eleven
  • September. 13
  • September. 15-16th
  • September. 18
  • September. 20-22nd
  • September. 25
  • September. 27-28th

Restaurant owner Duane Arnold emphasized their commitment to the safety of their guests and employees.

“The health and safety of our guests and employees is our top priority, which is why we began working with the state CDC as soon as we learned of this situation,” Arnold said.

Hepatitis A cases in Maine have remained high since an initial increase in 2019, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This ongoing concern highlights the need for awareness and prevention efforts.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that is spread primarily through contact with feces.

“This is a very contagious virus. People with hepatitis A have large amounts of the virus in their feces, even if they are asymptomatic. So, it can be spread through hands that are contaminated with feces,” Mills further said. explained.

Becky Jacobson, executive director of Hospitality Maine (formerly the Maine Restaurant Association), also commented on the situation.

“We’re hoping this isn’t some kind of uptick and most restaurants are trying to create a clean environment for their employees and customers,” Jacobson said.

One concerning aspect of hepatitis A is that symptoms may not appear for two weeks after exposure, making it easier to unknowingly spread the virus to others during the incubation period.

If exposure occurs, doctors recommend vaccination against hepatitis A. A single dose can provide several years of immunity, but two doses are recommended for optimal protection.

For more information about hepatitis A from the Maine CDC, click here.

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