The hepatitis A outbreak in Hawaii has now sickened 135 people, according to the latest update from the Hawaii Department of Health. Forty-two new cases have been identified since July 26, 2016. All of the ill persons have been adults. Thirty-nine people have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe.
The latest findings of the investigation suggest that the source of the outbreak is on the island of Oahu. Seven of those sickened live on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui. The dates of illness onset range from July 12, 2016 to July 24, 2016.
Anyone who is in contact with those who have this illness should talk to their doctor about receiving a vaccination against hepatitis A. Shots are only effective if given within two weeks of exposure. A “contact” is all unvaccinated household members, all unvaccinated sexual contacts, anyone sharing illicit drugs, anyone sharing food or eating or drinking utensils with a sick person, or anyone consuming foods prepared by an ill person. Anyone with this illness who works with food must have a negative hepatitis A test before they return to work.
Six food service businesses have had food workers diagnosed with the illness. That does not mean that these businesses are the source of the outbreak. But if you ate or drank food at these establishments in June or July, you may have been exposed to hepatitis A. Those facilities are the Baskin-Robbins at Waikele Center on Oahu; Chili’s at 590 Farrington Highway, Kapolei, Oahu; the Costco Bakery at Hawaii Kai in Oahu; certain flights on Hawaiian Airlines; Sushi Shiono at 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Drive in the Waikoloa Beach Resort on Hawaii; and the Taco Bell at 94-790 Ukee Street in Waipio on Oahu.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include lethargy, fatigue, clay colored stools, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms can begin two weeks to 50 days after exposure to the virus. People are contagious two weeks before symptoms appear, which is why the virus is spread so easily.
While most people recover on their own, some, especially those with liver disease, can become so ill they must be hospitalized. To prevent spread of this illness, wash your hands well after using the bathroom or caring for someone who is ill. Never prepare food or drink for others if you are sick. And if you are ill, stay home until you have completely recovered.