KCSO: Knox County inmate working in kitchen tests positive for Hepatitis A

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed there was a kitchen worker inmate who tested positive for Hepatitis A recently.

Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler spoke with WATE 6 On Your Side Tuesday about the inmate, saying it was not an outbreak and that no other inmates have the virus.

Knox County Health Department officials notified county commission attendees on Wednesday that they could have been exposed to Hepatitis A after being served food during a commission meeting on May 28.

The letter from the Health Department states officials believe the risk of exposure was very low, but possible if they met all of the following criteria:

  • Attended the May 28th County Commission Meeting AND
  • Ate the food provided at the meeting AND
  • Are not vaccinated against hepatitis A

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says Hepatitis A is “a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).” and is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. 

According to Spangler, the inmate was working in the kitchen as a dishwasher and had symptoms of feeling sick and was sent to the nurses. Tests revealed the inmate had Hepatitis A. 

“What happens when they originally come in, they’re tested, or at least a physical is done on them and some tests are done for some disease and some are not,” Spangler said. “We rely on those individuals to at least tell us that they have something, …and we may end up finding out later that they have something else, and that’s what’s happened in this case.”

Because the inmate was in an area of the kitchen with food, Spangler said they are “being cautious about what’s happened.”

During that time, they hosted a county commission meeting and were served snacks and drinks. Spangler said the commissioners have been told they should go see the health department for a vaccination as a precaution. 

Other KCSO employees are also being advised to get a vaccination. 

The inmate was moved for treatment, Spangler said, and has been assigned to another facility. 

No other inmates, or KCSO employees, have shown symptoms of Hepatitis A. Spangler said the incubation period has passed.   

The Knox County Health Department was contacted regarding vaccinations, Spangler said. 

“We’re being cautious about this is what’s really important to us,” Spangler said. “We’ve reached out to everybody and partnered with the health department to make sure everybody was contacted to let them know that the vaccine was available.”  

Inmates were offered the opportunity to be vaccinated, but Spangler said they can’t make them take it. 

Knox County officials believe the timeframe was between May 20-28.

Health department officials said people previously vaccinated for hepatitis A are not at risk of infection from the potential exposure.

Health officials also said if attendees meet all three of the criteria on May 28, they should get vaccinated by June 11.

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