Volume 96, Issue 15
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

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Don't finish your vegetables

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Thousands of London residents, including some Western students, have been vaccinated against hepatitis A after an employee at Sobeys grocery store, formerly IGA, on the corner of Fanshawe Park Road and Adelaide Street was diagnosed with the virus last week.

Free vaccination clinics were being offered until today by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, according to Dr. Graham Pollett, medical officer of health. "If your exposure was within the last three weeks, a vaccination may be [beneficial]."

The three most common forms of hepatitis are A, B and C, Pollett said. "They are all infections of the liver," he said, adding type A is considered the least severe, as people who contract it tend to make a full recovery.

Andrew Walker, VP-communications and corporate affairs of Sobeys, said the grocery chain has procedures in case such an event occurs. "We move very, very quickly, which is what we did in London," he said.

"In terms of prevention, we comply to all appropriate legislation," Walker stated, adding Sobeys has an extensive training program for its employees in terms of food safety.

"Our franchisees [in London] immediately closed the store," Walker noted. The store was thoroughly disinfected and was open on Saturday, he added.

Fourth-year visual arts student Adam Stead said he has shopped at Sobeys since it originally opened. "I was a little taken aback [by the news]," he said.

"I wasn't really scared [about hepatitis A]. I don't eat vegetables that often, and when I do, I wash them very well," Stead said, adding he was not considering getting vaccinated.

Ash Boutros, a fourth-year honours philosophy student, said he was alarmed when he learned about the warning. "I went to the grocery store and it was closed, and they weren't saying why," he said.

"My reaction was, wait a minute, I eat a lot of fruit," Boutros said. "I was comforted by the fact that they were running the clinics," he said, adding he had just received a vaccination yesterday.

Boutros said he had not returned to the grocery store since the incident and he was not sure when he would go back.

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta recommends the vaccine be used to prevent a community outbreak, Pollett said. Close to 7,000 people had been vaccinated by 170 staff members and 25 volunteers as of yesterday, he explained.

Pollett noted the Health Unit received excellent co-operation from Sobeys.

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2002 THE GAZETTE