KSU: Hepatitis A risk contained

Kali Price

More than 500 people were at risk of contracting hepatitis A after a male Kent State student, who worked for University Dining Services, was confirmed to have the virus Friday.

Kent State officials moved quickly to give immune globulin injections to those affected over the holiday weekend.

Kelly Engelhart, nursing director of the Portage County Health Department, said the student is “recovering quite quickly.”

The student worked for dining services serving catered meals in the Student Center.

Only members of five different groups – RAGS ONTAP, Kupita/Transiciones and the volleyball, field hockey and football teams – are affected, university spokesman Ron Kirksey said. Those groups ate catered meals the student helped prepare between Aug. 18 and 24.

Other groups, such as resident assistants, are not at risk, but were notified as well in order to assist students, Kirksey said.

All of those affected have been notified and offered the immune globulin injections, Engelhart said.

“Students are not at risk, and if they were at risk, they would have been contacted by the university,” she said.

Engelhart said about 70 to 80 percent of those contacted have received the immunization. She said she finds the numbers “pretty significant, seeing as it’s a holiday weekend.”

“They’ve all been pretty well taken care of,” Kirksey said.

Those in close contact with the student, as well as his roommates and co-workers, received the immunization as early as Friday, Engelhart said. The DeWeese Health Center remained open over the holiday weekend for those contacted to receive the immunization.

Kirksey and Engelhart both said the immunizations were given to prevent the risk of a spread of hepatitis A at the university.

“At any university, you don’t want to take the chance,” Engelhart said. “This is really public health’s prevention to stop the spread (of the virus). They (the university) had the resources that we could just pull from to make this happen.”

A second possible case of hepatitis A is suspected in a female student. Officials are still awaiting results of blood tests to confirm if the female student has the virus or not. Because of the incubation period for hepatitis A, the cases are unrelated, Engelhart said.

“That student cannot have contracted that from the other student,” she said.

The female student was brought to health services Friday. Ray Leone, chief university physician, believed the second case “was too much of a coincidence” to ignore the threat, Engelhart said.

Hepatitis A can be caused by improper handling of food or coming in close contact with someone who is infected with the virus.

“Dining Services keeps to the highest standards of sanitation,” Kirksey said.

Engelhart said it can also be caused by mononucleosis or allergic reactions to medications.

Contact student politics reporter Kali Price at [email protected].