Local health workers are hoping more people show up to their Hepatitis A clinic next week than did to the one held this summer.
According to Stuart Pike, environmental health officer for the region, only 40 people showed up to the last clinic compared to 150 people during the winter.
Pike said he did not know the exact reason why so many fewer people showed up for the second clinic.
“I don’t know whether there are more people working here in the winter than in the summer, that might possibly be it,“ suggested Pike.
“It may also be because there are probably a lot of people visiting the resort that have already got Hepatitis A shots before they come here,” he said.
Whatever the reason, he said local health care workers are trying to stress to the community the importance of getting vaccinated.
He added the program will likely be continued, regardless of the number of people who show up to next week’s clinic.
“This is something that we are in for the long haul. This is something that we want to get on the map, so every six months, people know that a Hepatitis A vaccination is available,” he said.
The Hepatitis A clinics are part of a mixed public-private program between Vancouver Coastal Health, Travel Medicine, and Vaccination Centre from Vancouver.
Regional Medical Health Officer Paul Martiquet has dubbed the program “innovative” for its effort to prevent Hepatitis A transmission through food handling.
The program is the first of its kind in the province and offers Hepatitis A vaccinations at a reduced priced every six months in Whistler. It was initiated last winter after several reported cases of Hepatitis A among food workers sparked concern that the disease may have spread.
A total of three Hepatitis A cases were reported in the Sea to Sky corridor last year, all from Whistler.
“We’ve had problems in the past, and those have been resolved. We just want to prevent it from happening again,” said Martiquet.
“The story we are giving to the food service owners is that they are getting a good deal on the vaccine, we’re bringing it to them, and it is worth the investment,” he said.
Martiquet added Whistler is an ideal location to launch such a program because of the large number of food services in the area.
“There is a very large food establishment industry, so it is a good place to start. And especially with the Olympics coming up, I think that we are looking to basically show that we are a world-class community,” he said, adding that Vancouver would be a good next step to expand the program.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that attacks the liver. The virus is passed in the feces of infected people from two weeks before symptoms appear to two weeks afterwards. If an infected person does not wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom, the virus can be spread through food preparation and hand or mouth contact.
Many people who contract Hepatitis A remain asymptomatic and will not show any symptoms of the disease. These people can still transmit the virus and cause an outbreak.
Hepatitis A vaccinations are given in a series of two shots, taken six months apart.
The next Hepatitis A and flu clinic will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the Whistler Health Care Centre, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. No appointment necessary. Hepatitis A shots cost $40, flu shots cost $25.
If more than 25 employees from the same company sign up, a nurse will be able to give the vaccinations at the company’s location.
For more information contact 604-932-3202.
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