October 26, 2016

Hawaii Hepatitis A Outbreak May be Linked to Food

Civil Beat is reporting that Dr. Sarah Park briefed Hawaii legislators on the hepatitis A outbreak investigation in that state. As of August 5, 2016, at least 135 people are sick with that viral illness. Employees of seven food service businesses have been diagnosed with the disease, leading to a public rush on hepatitis A and immune globulin vaccinations.

Hepatitis A virus

Most of those sickened live on the island of Oahu. Eight others live on other islands in the state, and one person is back on the mainland. The Hawaii Department of Health thinks that the source of the virus is a food product, since the range of illness onset is so wide, from mid-June through early August.

Patients have been interviewed to try to find a common food source, but it can be very difficult to recall everything that has been eaten for weeks, but public health officials think they are getting closer to solving the outbreak source.

Park added that the current hepatitis A outbreak is a “sub-type” called Hepatitis A1. This strain of the virus is different from anything that is in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) database, according to park.

While seven food service establishments have been singled out, since one of their employees has been sick, officials do not believe those individuals are the source of the outbreak. The businesses have taken a hit financially.

Issues with hepatitis A and immune globulin vaccinations in the state have also been an issue. Since the vaccinations are imported to the islands, if the supplies run low, the shots will be limited to those who are at high risk for serious complications, such as those with liver illnesses. That hasn’t happened yet. Some clinics are requiring a prescription for the shot. The outbreak has caused a spike in the request for adult vaccinations.

The symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dark urine, jaundice, and clay colored stools. These symptoms begin two weeks to 50 days after exposure. A vaccination is only effective if given within two weeks of exposure to the virus.

If you have had hepatitis A in the past or have been vaccinated, you are likely protected against the virus. Vaccinations are effective up to 25 years.




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