NewsPinellas County


Florida does not test or require Hep A vaccine for food workers

Posted at 5:01 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 07:03:23-05

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. -- Some people in Pinellas County are pushing for change after workers at two popular Tampa Bay restaurants tested positive for the contagious Hepatitis A virus. 

Florida does not require food workers to get tested or be vaccinated for Hepatitis A. In fact, only a few cities and counties across the country require food workers to get the Hep A shot.

Within the past month, workers at Hamburger Mary’s in Ybor City and Toasted Monkey in St. Pete Beach both tested positive for the virus.

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Both restaurants were forced to temporarily close, according to the Department of Business and Professional Regulations, because inspectors found other issues including cockroaches in the kitchens. 

One St. Pete doctor, who specializes in Hepatitis cases, says these recent Hepatitis A cases should be a wake-up call for Florida leaders.

“Now that we are seeing this outbreak again, we’ve brought it to the surface, and we can get these people vaccinated and prevent these things from happening,” explained Dr. Bob Wallace. 

In the past, the CDC has not specifically recommended Hepatitis A vaccinations for food service workers because outbreaks are rare and food workers are not at an increased risk of infection because of their jobs.

However, symptoms can take up to 15 days after the initial exposure occurs, so sometimes food handlers don't feel ill during the peak time of infectivity.

Pinellas County resident William Thompson says Florida should absolutely require Hep A shots and testing for any workers that handle food.

“I think it's ridiculous that they don't. It's shocking,” he explained.“I think testing is very important because of all these illnesses that are reoccurring that we thought were irradiated but are just coming back.”

Sue Dickinson of Lakeland agrees.

“You would think they would have something like that to protect the public,” she said. “They do other health checks on the food and conditions and that would be just as important to check the people serving the food and preparing the food.”

ABC Action News contacted the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to see if they’ll make changes requiring vaccines and tests for food workers. We have yet to hear back from them.