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Hep A scare at Lyneham High

By johnboy 10 November 2011 5

The Canberra Times has the unhappy news that a canteen “food handling issue” at Lyneham High is going to have around 1,000 children and staff vaccinated for Hepatitis A:

Acting ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Pengilley said the risk of exposure was low, but the Government was offering food vaccinations to all students and staff who might have consumed freshly prepared food recently.

The vaccinations will take place on Monday and Tuesday, and the school has been informing parents.

UPDATE: The Health Directorate has finally posted on the subject:

A person involved in food preparation at the school canteen has been confirmed as having Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection which can be spread in food which is prepared by people who have this virus. The risk of food handlers transmitting hepatitis A is generally low, and the risk of transmission to people at the school who may have eaten food from the canteen.

Vaccination with Hepatitis A vaccine within two weeks of exposure has been shown to reduce the risk of people becoming infected when exposed to hepatitis A. ACT Health will therefore be offering free vaccination clinics at Lyneham High on Monday and Tuesday next week.

Hepatitis A is relatively uncommon in the ACT and so, unless people have already been vaccinated because of, for example, travelling to countries where the disease is more common, it would be expected that people would not have pre-existing immunity.

Infections with hepatitis A can be mild or asymptomatic, particularly in younger people, and adults tend to have more severe disease.

When people become unwell with hepatitis A they develop general symptoms such as fever, tiredness, nausea and abdominal discomfort which can last for days to a few weeks (4-10 days), followed by darkening of the urine and jaundice.

Symptoms can be mild or severe, but Hepatitis A does not cause ongoing hepatitis like Hepatitis B or C which people may have also heard of. People have generally recovered within a few weeks (1 month) of the onset of their illness.

The risk of people getting sick from people preparing food while unwell with Hepatitis A is generally low, and is highest for foods which are served uncooked like sandwiches. The risk to people who have only eaten commercially pre-packaged food from the canteen, like chips or fizzy drinks, is extremely low.

Letters have been sent to parents and staff at the school.

How can Hepatitis A be prevented?

Hepatitis A infection can be prevented by:

washing hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, before preparing and eating food, and after handling soiled linen e.g. nappies;
not sharing food, cutlery, crockery, cigarettes and drinks with other people;
when travelling in regions with poor sanitation, drinking bottled water and avoiding food that may have been cleaned or prepared using contaminated water; and

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Hep A scare at Lyneham High
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poetix 9:39 am 11 Nov 11

Goddess said :

Never heard of a ‘food vaccination’ before!

Well picked up; I just read it as ‘free’. Unless they’re injecting all the pies with a ‘special sauce’ and making the kids eat them. The fact that kids who ate ‘chips or fizzy drinks’ are less likely to get Hep A than those eating sandwiches must send a chill through all the middle class parents.

This whole thread makes me feel sick.

Gungahlin Al 8:46 am 11 Nov 11

Here’s a “learning something new every day” snippet I picked up from a Naked Scientist podcast on the ride in this morning:

The word Hepatitis mean of the liver. And being liver-based diseases is the only thing in common between the various A, B, C variants of hepatitis. Otherwise, they are completely unrelated.

C is the one that you get for life. The others are more manageable.

Goddess 6:35 am 11 Nov 11

Never heard of a ‘food vaccination’ before!

kakosi 11:57 pm 10 Nov 11

I caught Hep A years ago in a Canberra primary school and was gravely ill for several weeks, spending some time in hospital and about six weeks too ill to leave home. At least it’s a disease that completely leaves the body unlike the other hepatitis blood born diseases.

I got it at school from touching the taps in the toilets so it’s easily spread. The good news is that the vaccine works – my entire family were vaccinated when I was sick and no one else caught it. Although my sister did punch me in the arm for having to have a needle.

EvanJames 5:00 pm 10 Nov 11

Oh, lovely. It’s a pooh disease. Like Cholera. YUCKY. I wonder how the tuckshop person got it though?

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