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COUNTY HEALTH OFFICIAL DENIES REPORT OF SCHOOL WORKER WITH HEPATITIS.

Byline: Eric Wahlgren Daily News Staff Writer

Los Angeles County's director of disease control said Tuesday a report that a city school district food service employee has tested positive for the hepatitis A virus is erroneous.

Dr. Shirley Fannin said a test revealed that the employee, who works as a taste-tester and does not handle food served to students, had perhaps been infected with the virus in the past, but that the employee no longer has hepatitis A.

A Los Angeles Unified School District memo recently circulated to board members said the employee, who works at the Newman Nutrition Center in East Los Angeles, had tested positive for the virus.

The report came after a scare that nearly 9,000 students and staff members at 18 schools within the district had been served with possibly contaminated strawberries between March 25 and 28.

The scare triggered a massive inoculation campaign that ended up with thousands of students and staff receiving gamma globulin shots.

Brad Sales, a district spokesman, said the employee and several others at the nutrition center, taste-tested the strawberries during the first week in March.

But Sales said the employee has been tested again and was found not to have the hepatitis A virus. He added that the employee has been cleared to return to work.

Fannin said the employee's doctor misinterpreted the employee's first hepatitis A screening. The screening showed that the employee had hepatitis A virus antibodies - an agent the body develops to make it immune to the virus - meaning that the employee had once had the virus in the past.

But Fannin said that the case was clearly not linked to the strawberries.

``This (has) absolutely nothing to do with the berries,'' Fannin said.

Sales said at least one local television station has wrongly reported that the employee had tested positive for the virus after eating the strawberries.

Sales said the other food-service employees who taste-tested the potentially contaminated berries are being closely monitored, but that no other employees have shown any signs of having the virus.

No students have tested positive for the virus in connection with the berries. The virus can cause fatigue, diarrhea, muscle and joint aches and other flu-like symptoms.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 16, 1997
Words:368
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