Hawaii News Now is reporting that the Hawaii State Health Department has confirmed another case of hepatitis A in a State Department of Transportation employee. Any Department of Transportation employee who may have been exposed to this person are being offered vaccinations.
There is no word on whether or not that person handled food, or when he or she worked. People infected with this virus are contagious for two weeks before symptoms begin, so they can make others sick before they even know they themselves are ill.
State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park also said that public health officials are zeroing in on the cause of the outbreak. She told Hawaii News Now that “The indications are that whatever it is, this is not a fresh product its probably something that keeps for a while so frozen or dried or something.”
The symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, fever, nausea, diarrhea, yellow eyes and skin (jaundice). Symptoms usually begin two weeks to 50 days after exposure to the virus. Most people recover on their own, but some, especially those with liver disease, can become so seriously ill they must be hospitalized.
In the past few years, hepatitis A outbreaks have been linked to Townsend Farms frozen mixed berries and to ill persons. The virus is very contagious and is easily spread person-to-person via the fecal-oral route. That means that a tiny amount of feces contaminates food or drink or contact surfaces. Another person either eats the contaminated product or touches a contaminated surface, and is then infected.
The best way to stop the spread of this illness is to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, after caring for someone who is ill, and after changing a diaper. Never prepare food or drink for others if you are sick. If you have been in contact with someone who has hepatitis A and have not been vaccinated, get vaccinated, and avoid contact with others as much as possible if you can’t be vaccinated until the incubation period has passed. This is particularly important if you work in the healthcare, food service, or school industries.