Sunday, March 31, 2019

Resolution to require study of response to hepatitis A outbreak, and recommendations to avoid a repeat, failed in the legislature

Hepatitis A vaccine (USA Today photo by Nikki Boliaux)
The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services won't have to conduct a study of its response to the hepatitis A outbreak that has killed at least 52 in the state and is the nation's worst outbreak of the liver disease. It also won't have to make recommendations to the General Assembly "to ensure that future responses to outbreaks are more effective," as a legislative resolution would have directed.

The Senate-passed resolution directing the study and recommendations wasn't brought up for a vote in the House on the last day of the session, "despite broad bipartisan support," reports Deborah Yetter of the Louisville Courier Journal.

The sponsor of the resolution, Senate Democratic Leader Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, told Yetter that he didn't think it failed because of any opposition to the measure. "Rather, he said, he thinks it got caught in the crush of last-minute legislation that kept members of the House wrangling over other, more controversial bills almost till midnight," he said.

McGarvey said he will "demand answers" about how state officials responded to the outbreak, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, "said she expects lawmakers will pursue the matter with the cabinet," Yetter reports. Jenkins said, "It is a national embarrassment that we've handled it so poorly."

"The Courier Journal reported in February that a slow response over the past year by state public health officials to an outbreak of the contagious liver disease appeared to contribute to what became the the nation's largest and deadliest outbreak," Yetter notes.

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