Increase in Hepatitis A cases Leads To Raw Oysters, Shellfish Warning

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Persons who consume raw or undercooked oysters or other raw shellfish put themselves at an increased risk of Hepatitis A, according to Dr. Valerie A. Boaz, Health Officer for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

Hamilton County has had six cases of Hepatitis A reported to date in 2005. In 2004, only one case was reported, and in 2003, no cases were reported.

Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. Transmission can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.

Three recently diagnosed cases of Hepatitis A reported eating raw oysters at a local restaurant in early August. The local Health Department has determined that the food-handling and preparation procedures at the restaurant were not a likely source of the infection. The cases were not hurricane-related.

The Health Department, the Tennessee Department of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta are investigating these cases to identify the contamination source of the oysters.

Cases of Hepatitis A caused by shellfish consumption are usually not associated with a particular eating establishment as are cases related to an infected food handler, said Dr. Boaz. This is because the source is a food item that is known to be potentially infectious. Warnings on menus and health department alerts such as this remind patrons of the inherent dangers of eating raw or undercooked shellfish. Anyone eating raw or undercooked shellfish is taking a calculated risk, according to Dr. Boaz.

Although it is always a health risk to eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish, the recent disruption of gulf coastal waters could cause an increase in the amount of contaminated seafood originating in those waters. Any time that flooding occurs; there is the potential for sewage systems to overflow into natural waterways causing them to become contaminated with bacteria and viruses from human waste of infected persons.

Oysters and other shellfish harvested from contaminated waters are capable of spreading Hepatitis A virus if they are not cooked before eating. Boiling or cooking these foods for at least 1 minute to 185°F (85°C) inactivates the Hepatitis A virus, thus reducing the possibility of infection, according to Bonnie Deakins, Director of Environmental Health.

“Watch for the shells to open. This means that they are done. Discard any that stay closed,” Ms. Deakins said.

So far this year, Tennessee has had 130 cases of Hepatitis A reported; many of these cases were reported in upper east Tennessee and are not related to shellfish consumption. Ninety-five cases were reported statewide in 2004, and 202 cases in 2003.

After exposure to the Hepatitis A virus, illness usually occurs in 28-30 days but it may take 15-50 days for symptoms to develop. The symptoms of Hepatitis A are fever, lack of appetite, nausea, and fatigue and then jaundice. Jaundice is a yellow or orange tint to the skin or whites of the eyes. Some persons with Hepatitis A will have no symptoms at all – especially children.

Hepatitis A symptoms usually last 1-2 weeks and no specific treatment is required in order to get better. Infected persons shed the virus in stool from a week or two before symptoms begin until a few days after jaundice begins. Because of this, persons who are ill with Hepatitis A should not work in restaurants, child care centers, or nursing homes until their symptoms have resolved.

Persons with suspected Hepatitis A infection should see their physician. A blood test to confirm the diagnosis may be indicated. Household and sexual contacts of persons with Hepatitis A may need an injection of immune globulin to keep them from getting the infection.

The spread of Hepatitis A can be controlled by good hygiene measures such as careful hand washing after using the bathroom, not eating raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish and washing uncooked produce before eating. There is also a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis A infection, which may be indicated for persons with on-going exposure to the Hepatitis A virus.

For more information or to report a case of Hepatitis A, call 209-8190.


Mary McKenzie Joins CHI Memorial Medical Group

CHI Memorial Medical Group is pleased to welcome Mary McKenzie, D.O. to CHI Integrative Medicine Associates.  Dr. McKenzie received her medical degree from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, Ohio.  She completed her residency at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. “Dr. McKenzie is a great addition to this practice,” says Glyn Hughes, CEO, Mountain ... (click for more)

Debra Chew: Lifted Out Of The Quicksand Of Fear

I sat paralyzed in my car at the bottom of a steep driveway - on Signal Mountain.  I had an important lunch meeting there because I was about to be introduced to Dalton Roberts, a writer from Chattanooga.  I had enjoyed reading his columns, and as I was a new writer, not only was I looking forward to gaining some insight into publishing opportunities in Chattanooga but ... (click for more)

Hutcheson Medical Center Seeking Court Approval To Sell Trenton Family Practice For $350,000

Hutcheson Medical Center, continuing to make cost-cutting measures, is seeking court approval to sell the Trenton Family Practice at Trenton, Ga., for $350,000. Ted Rumley, county executive for Dade County, said the medical center is so important for the county that officials have arranged for the Dade County Industrial Development Authority to buy it. He said arrangements ... (click for more)

1 Person Killed In Wreck On I-75 SB Involving 2 Tractor-Trailers And 3rd Vehicle; Volkswagen Drive Exit Closed Several Hours

One person was killed in a wreck on Interstate 75 involving three vehicles early Monday morning. Two of the vehicles were tractor-trailers. The accident happened at approximately 6:28 a.m. at the southbound lanes of 700 I-75. The southbound lanes at the Volkswagen Drive exit were closed for several hours. TDOT said the wreck was near the Bonny Oaks Drive/Collegedale ... (click for more)

DWT Is DUI - And Response

A routine narrative of a DUI arrest report goes something like this:   The defendant was operating a motor vehicle in the 00 block of sonsoroad. The driver was weaving back and forth across the marked roadway. The defendant drove through a stop sign. Was stopped at an intersection despite the traffic light was green. Entered the lane of another vehicle and caused a ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UT’s Gender-Neutral Dopes

With due apology to Smokey, the University of Tennessee’s famed blue-tick hound, the tail is wagging the dog at UT-Knoxville. Donna Braquet, the director of the university’s Pride Center, wants to suck 99.9 percent of the 28,000 students into a ridiculous scheme that will make the campus “welcoming and inclusive for all” … .01 percent. Her idea is to do away with binary gender ... (click for more)