If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
STIs are spiking in the US, especially in the last 5 years. Take syphilis as an example; it was nearly eliminated in 2000 but has shot up 68% between 2017 and 2021. A whopping 1 in 5 people in the US have a sexually transmitted infection, so this isn’t rare or a problem that affects other people - it will be affecting your employees and guests. Part of the rise is due to closure of sexual health clinics across the country. The pandemic also delayed sexual health care, and stigma related to sexual health, testing, and treatment may be contributing factors, as well. Using protection during sex is still the best way to prevent infection.
Hepatitis C is a viral liver infection that’s spread through contact with infected blood. For most businesses, including restaurants, there’s a low risk of workplace transmission. There’s no evidence that people can get hepatitis C from food handlers without blood-to-blood contact. That said, you do need to be extra careful cleaning up blood if an employee infected with Hep C injures themself. Be sure to wear gloves and use a bloodborne pathogen clean-up kit. Consider revamping training for your staff on how to use your body fluid clean-up kits, as well.
Allergy season is getting longer, which means it’s already here in much of the US. The easiest way to tell if an employee has a virus rather than allergies is if they have fever, body aches, diarrhea, or vomiting. Those almost never come with seasonal allergies. Likewise, itchy eyes are less common for viral infections. Still, the overlap can be confusing - sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue are common for allergies, colds, and COVID. Our clinical team asks about whether an employee typically has seasonal allergies and whether allergy medications alleviate their symptoms. If yes, it’s safe to assume it’s seasonal allergies. If there’s no history of allergies or meds don’t help, it may be something more.
No, and this is very important. E. coli is an incredibly common bacteria, so we regularly see employees concerned about the types that have no impact on food handling or businesses, like UTIs. There are more than 700 types of E. coli, but only 6 types of them cause diarrhea, which are the ones that health departments (and we) are worried about when it comes to food handling. Of those six, there’s one that causes the vast majority of foodborne illness outbreaks, which is STEC or shiga toxin-producing E. coli. The most common STEC in the US is E. coli O157. If you see an employee test result that mentions 0157 or STEC (also sometimes referred to as Verocytotoxin-producing (VTEC) or enterohemorrhagic (EHEC)), you should definitely assume the health department will be on their way and consider calling them to get ahead of the situation. But for the five other types of diarrheagenic E.coli, many health departments are much less concerned as the risk for foodborne illness is much lower. So, if you see E. coli on a test result, don’t panic, but be prepared. Some health departments will do an inspection for any E. coli result, others will only respond to STEC.