JUPITER, Fla— — The owner of Jumby Bay Island Grill in Abacoa, has decided to pay for every employee to receive the Hepatitis A vaccine. Although Florida law doesn’t require people who handle food to have a Hep. A shot, the restaurant believes it’s the smartest thing to do after 18 cases have been reported in Palm Beach County since the start of 2019.
“I didn’t want that in the back of my mind,” said Jumby Bay owner Vicki Parmelee.
Parmelee says she routinely talks to her staff about safe food handling and proper hygiene, but recently it’s become an even bigger topic of discussion.
“I thought how do my customers feel and I want to make sure they are confident when they come in to dine at my restaurant,” said Parmelee.
The Palm Beach County Health Department has reported 18 cases since January.
At Butcher Shop Beer Garden and Grill in West Palm Beach, a dishwasher recently tested positive for Hep. A. However management clarified that the worker did not handle or have any contact with food.
Last week, Cooper’s Hawk in Palm Beach Gardens confirmed an employee may have exposed diners to the contagious virus between May 1 and May 12.
“I haven’t slowed down how much I go to a restaurant, but I am concerned about it,” said customer Joe Ware.
Although none of the cases reported have originated from Jumby Bay, Parmelee says she’s wanting to do everything she can to prevent something like Hepatitis A from spreading. She is also hoping other restaurant owners step up and offer vaccines to its staff members.
“We really need to make it an important part of how we handle food and what we do to serve the community,” said Parmelee.
The latest Hepatitis A numbers throughout South Florida is 17 in St. Lucie County, 22 in Martin County, 18 in Palm Beach, 2 in Okeechobee and 1 in Indian River County.