September 23, 2018

Hawaii Hepatitis A Outbreak Grows; Another Food Worker Diagnosed

The Hawaii Department of Health has updated its investigation into the hepatitis A outbreak in that state. Now 93 people are sick with the viral infection. And another food handler on the island was diagnosed with the disease.

Hepatitis A

Officials have still not identified the source of the outbreak. This illness has a long incubation period of two weeks to a month, and patients are often not able to remember the foods they consumed or where they ate during the exposure period. Healthcare workers are informed to notify the HDOH immediately if they think a patient has hepatitis A.

As of July 26, 2016, 19 new cases of hepatitis A have been diagnosed. All of the cases have been in adults. Of the 93 people sickened, 29 have been hospitalized because their illness is so severe. The illness onset dates range between 6/12/16 and 7/19/16.

Three establishments in the state have been identified as having food handlers who have been diagnosed with hepatitis A. This does not indicate that those businesses are the sources of the outbreak. No infections have been linked to exposure to these businesses at this time.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said in a statement, “preventing exposure from infected food handlers is difficult because patients with hepatitis A are most contagious one to two weeks before symptoms start. It is possible that other food service establishments will be affected with additional new cases.”

Hawaii State law requires that all vaccinated food handlers who are contacts of confirmed cases be tested for infection and have a negative hepatitis A IgM test before returning to work. A “contact” is defined as “as unvaccinated household members, unvaccinated sexual contacts, anyone sharing illicit drugs with a case, anyone sharing food or eating or drinking utensils with a case, anyone consuming ready-to-eat foods prepared by an infectious food handler with diarrhea or poor hygiene.”

But, if you ate food or drank beverages at the three locations during June and July 2016 you should contact your doctor about either getting a hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccination, or be aware that you should monitor yourself for the symptoms of the disease and get medical help if needed. You can find pharmacies that offer vaccinations online.

Those establishments are the Baskin-Robbins in Waikele Center in Oahu, the Taco Bell at 94-790 Ukee Street in Oahu, and the new diagnosis at Sushi Shiono in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, Queen’s MarketPlace (69-201 Waikoloa Beach Drive) on the island of Hawaii. The worker at Sushi Shiono worked July 5 through the 8th, the 11th through the 15th, and the 18th through the 21st, 2016.

If you ate at Sushi Shiono during those dates, you may have been exposed to the virus. Since the vaccination is only good if given within two weeks after the date of exposure, if you ate there before July 13, 2016, you are no longer eligible for the shot. Monitor yourself for the symptoms of hepatitis A for the next few weeks.

The symptoms of hepatitis A include dark urine, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice, which is yellow skin or eyes. To prevent further spread of this illness, wash your hands well with soap and water before preparing food for others, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and after caring for someone who is ill. Stay home from work if you are sick and do not prepare or serve food to others.

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