¿Puedo contraer la hepatitis A de los alimentos del restaurante?

¿Se puede contraer la hepatitis A en la comida del restaurante? ¿Qué debe hacer si se entera de una perspectiva de hepatitis A en un restaurante en el que cenó? ¿Se puede prevenir la enfermedad si estuvo expuesto?

Hepatitis A y Alimentación

Usted puede contraer la hepatitis A en la comida del restaurante, pero no es porque la comida sea de un restaurante. Puede estar expuesto a la hepatitis A de alimentos preparados en cualquier lugar (su casa, la casa de un amigo y, sí, incluso un restaurante) si la persona que prepara los alimentos está infectada con el virus de la hepatitis A.

Esto se debe a que la hepatitis A es causada por un virus que se transmite de persona a persona cuando no nos lavamos las manos. Es una enfermedad fecal-oral, lo que significa que el virus entra a su cuerpo a través de la boca y se excreta en las heces. Las personas infectadas que no se lavan bien las manos después de ir al baño pueden transmitir fácilmente el virus a cualquier persona o persona que toque. Si preparan o sirven comida, podrían exponer a cualquier persona que coma la comida. Si esto es para una familia de cuatro, no hay mucha gente expuesta. Sin embargo, si preparan alimentos para un restaurante ocupado, miles de personas pueden exponerse. Cuando ocurre una exposición como esta, a menudo se escucha en las noticias locales.

¿Por qué necesito saber si está expuesto a la hepatitis A?

Si bien es alarmante, es bueno que un brote de hepatitis A sea noticia porque los funcionarios de salud quieren que las personas que estuvieron expuestas estén atentas a los síntomas y, si es posible, reciban una dosis de la vacuna contra la hepatitis A o la inmunoglobulina de la hepatitis A lo antes posible. La inmunoglobulina, o IG, es un medicamento que brinda una protección poderosa pero temporal para las personas expuestas a la hepatitis A. Si se toma con suficiente antelación (dentro de dos semanas), puede proteger completamente contra la exposición. La protección es de solo unos meses. Para una protección más largo, necesita la vacuna contra hepatitis A .

Inmunoglobulina contra la hepatitis A frente a la vacuna contra la hepatitis A para la exposición

You may be wondering if it is best to get the hepatitis A vaccine, or instead immune globulin after an exposure. In general, those less than one year of age and those over 41 years of age should receive immune globulin, whereas those between the ages of 12 months and 40 should receive the vaccine. An exception includes those between the age of 12 months and 40 years who have reduced immune function due to cancer, an organ transplant, AIDS, or other diseases which affect the immune system, as well as those who have chronic liver disease. These people should receive immune globulin instead of the vaccine no matter their age.

Should I Worry About Eating at a Restaurant?

Not really. If restaurant employees follow proper hygiene standards and follow local health regulations, you’re at very little risk of being exposed to hepatitis A through restaurant food. Many restaurants train their employees to wash their hands after using the toilet and, in some places, employees must wear disposable gloves when working with food. Due to restaurant regulations, you may actually be safer eating in a restaurant than at home.

How Do I Prevent Hepatitis A?

You can prevent hepatitis A through immunization. There are safe and effective hepatitis vaccines available in the United States for anyone older than 12 months of age. These vaccines are inactivated vaccines (which means they don’t use live viruses) and provide about 25 years of protection if you take the full vaccine dose, which are two shots in the arm (or the thigh for young children). Another vaccine, Twinrix, offers protection for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Children are now routinely vaccinated between the ages of 12 and 23 months. The CDC currently recommends vaccination for those who:

  • Are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Are a man who has sex with other men
  • Use illegal drugs
  • Have a chronic liver disease such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • Are being treated with clotting factor concentrates
  • Work with hepatitis A infected animals or in a hepatitis research lab
  • Will be having close personal contact with an international adoptee from a country where hepatitis A is common.

You should not get the hepatitis A vaccine if you have any severe, life-threatening allergies or if you are not feeling well.

What Happens If I Am Exposed to Hepatitis A?

Despite our best efforts at prevention, sometimes we are exposed to hepatitis A. If this happens at a restaurant, you will probably learn about this through your local news source. You need to follow these simple steps:

  • Find out the dates of exposure. You will only be exposed to hepatitis A if you ate at the restaurant during the time an infected food handler was contagious. The health department will know this time period and will only be concerned about people who ate at the restaurant during this period. These dates are calculated very conservatively based on incubation periods, so even if you ate at the restaurant one or two days before or after the dates of exposure, you’re fine. The average incubation period for hepatitis A is 28 days, with a range of 15 to 50 days.
  • Contact the health department, not the restaurant. In most cases, the local public health department is the best source for more information. They will have the dates of exposure and the official recommendations for what you should do. Some health departments have access to hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin. Most, however, will probably recommend you to see your doctor.
  • Contact your physician or provider. If the health department advises you to follow up with a physician, make your appointment as soon as you can. Make sure you’re prepared to explain why you’re calling and what the public health recommendations are to your doctor. If you need the vaccine or immune globulin, your doctor will probably need to order it from another company because most physicians don’t keep them in stock.
  • Monitor your symptoms. Hepatitis A begins like any other viral hepatitis. Many people might recognize jaundice as a hepatitis symptom, but it’s a relatively late symptom and many people won’t show jaundice at all.