September 27, 2016

Hawaii Hepatitis Outbreak Grows to Include 52 Sick

The Hawaii Department of Health has released more information about the Hepatitis A outbreak in Waipahu. Now 52 people are sick with this viral infection. A food service employee at the Baskin-Robbins store in the Waikele Center in Waipahu has been diagnosed with the illness.

Hepatitis A virus

The department is telling anyone who consumed any food or drink products at that Baskin Robbins location between June 17 and July 3, 2016 that they may have been exposed to the virus. The actual dates that employee worked are June 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 27, and 30, 2016. Anyone who has not had hepatitis A or who has not been vaccinated should contact their healthcare providers about getting the shot.

The shot only will protect you if given within two weeks of the date of exposure. That means anyone who ate there before June 29, 2016 can no longer receive the shot. There are two possible vaccinations: the hepatitis A vaccine and the immune globulin vaccination. Your doctor will decide which vaccination you should receive depending on your age and health factors.

All of those sickened have been adults who live on Oahu. Sixteen of those sickened have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so serious. The department has issued a Medical Advisory to all healthcare providers urging them to report all suspected hepatitis A infections immediately.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said, “the source of this outbreak has still not been determined. In the meantime, we encourage all persons consider and talk to their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated. This case demonstrates the potential to spread hepatitis A virus to many others who remain susceptible. In an effort to stem the spread of the disease, individuals, including food service employees, exhibiting symptoms of a hepatitis A infection should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.”

The symptoms of a hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), dark urine, clay colored stools, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Most people can be ill for a few weeks; some are sick as long as two months.

Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of this and other diseases. Properly cooked foods can also help prevent infection.

In Hawaii, the hepatitis A vaccine is available at local pharmacies. You can find a list of vaccinating pharmacies at the Hawaii government website.

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