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Health department flooded after Kingsport hepatitis A case

J.H. OSBORNE and RAIN SMITH • Updated Apr 4, 2019 at 9:11 AM
At about 11 a.m. Wednesday, approximately 75 people were at the Sullivan County Health Department on East Sullivan Street in Kingsport. The line to receive a Hepatitis A vaccine began outside and circled around a pair of separate waiting rooms.

As of 6 p.m., the health department had administered 1,627 vaccinations at its offices in Kingsport and Blountville, Director Gary Mayes said. And that number didn't include people getting vaccinated by partner health organizations in Greene County and Hawkins County and Southwest Virginia.

On Tuesday, Regional Health Department officials announced that an employee of McAlister’s Deli, 2003 N. Eastman Road, has been diagnosed with acute hepatitis A. Anyone who had dined at the restaurant from March 11 through 27 was encouraged to contact the health department.

It was also announced that free hepatitis A vaccines would be offered at both the Kingsport and Blountville office, spurring Wednesday's flood of past McAllister's patrons. Mayes said the Sullivan County Regional Health Department planned to continue administering vaccinations until 6 p.m., and will do so again all day Thursday and Friday, as well as next Monday through Wednesday.

In the Model City, Health Department employees were scurrying back and forth to get the necessary paperwork from patients, then administer the shots. Mayes said because McAlister's is located in Kingsport, the health department's location on Wilcox Drive near downtown had by far seen the most patients.

Mayes said the health department includes practice for this type of incident in its regular emergency preparedness drills and had a process in place to quickly respond and the state keeps a supply of vaccine to provide for just this type scenario.

The only previous time the SCRHD has had to actually carry out the process occurred the day before Thanksgiving 2018 when 746 inmates and personnel were vaccinated at the Sullivan County Jail, Mayes said.

For more on this story, read Thursday's print edition of the Times News.

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