Two additional people who attended a Sept. 28 community supper at the Durham Friends Meetinghouse may have been infected with hepatitis A, but the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control said she is confident most of the people who may have been in jeopardy have either received a vaccination or not developed symptoms.

The agency held a vaccination clinic Oct. 8 at the Eureka Community Center in Durham after an individual who served and prepared food at the supper tested positive for hepatitis.

“We had 58 individuals take part in the clinic out the 75 we identified at risk who were at the supper,” said Sheila Pinette, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control. “We were very pleased with the turnout.”

Staff from the Maine Center for Disease Control visited the building on Oct. 6 to work with church officials to help reach anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.

The virus is spread through consumption of contaminated food and not casual contact. According to Pinette, signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine and jaundice. Adults are more likely to show signs and symptoms of illness than children.

“The bigger risk is with adults, as children have a greater chance of being vaccinated in the past five years,” said Pinette.

When a vaccine is administered within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A, it is effective in preventing the illness, Pinette said.

The health officer for Durham, Deborah Larrabee, said the clinic was successful.

“It was handled very professionally by the CDC and we accomplished our goal of getting the word out,” said Larrabee, who is also a town columnist for the Tri-Town Weekly.

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the state typically has about seven cases of hepatitis A yearly.

Church officials did not return calls for comment before the Tri-Town Weekly’s deadline on Monday. Larrabee said the incident can be a learning experience for both the town and community groups.

“Right now we are just trying to give the church a break,” said Larrabee. “We can learn from what happened. There are a lot of groups who hold similar events. I think the church would just like to get the whole thing behind them.”

While community groups are not required to have a food safety certification, Pinette said, simple measures can be taken when preparing and serving food.

“We encourage people to wash their hands thoroughly and wear some type of glove when handling food,” said Pinette.


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