Community Health

With nearly 200 reported cases of hepatitis A reported in Louisville since November, there’s a new local effort attempting to curb the problem in places that can further spread the disease: restaurants.

Louisville is offering $25 hepatitis A vaccines to restaurant and food service workers. The initiative launched this week from the Department of Public Health and Wellness in partnership with the University of Louisville’s Global Health Center.

Dave Langdon, Public Health and Wellness spokesman, said the department is subsidizing the vaccines with its own funds and donations. A single hepatitis A vaccine usually costs about $65, he said. The program is designed to encourage employers to help pay for vaccinations en masse, to try to get as many workers vaccinated as possible.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease that can be spread through fecal matter on hands, which is why contact with food, plates and silverware can pose a risk to restaurant workers and customers.

Against the Grain co-owner Adam Watson said more than half of the restaurant and brewery’s employees received the vaccine this week. The company footed the bill, which Watson said he saw as a worthwhile expense.

“There’s obviously the human element of simply not wanting to inflict unnecessary misery on other people,” Watson said. “But, beyond that, there’s absolutely a PR nightmare that comes with being the place that infected somebody with hep A.”

Watson said the business also benefits from peace of mind: he knows that workers and customers are less likely to be at risk of infection. That decreases Against the Grain’s liability and could even improve future insurance rates since the company is being proactive, he said.

Businesses with more than 20 employees can arrange to have a “pop-up clinic” on-site where University of Louisville staff can administer the vaccines. Watson said the process took less than an hour for him and his employees. Those with fewer employees can get the vaccines at U of L.

Employers interested in arranging for the vaccines should contact Dr. Ruth Carrico at (502) 852-1324 to make arrangements.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.