The Hawaii Department of Health has issued a press release stating that two new hepatitis A cases in food service workers have been diagnosed. An employee at Chili’s restaurant at 590 Farrington Highway in Kapolei, and a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant are sick. There are 93 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Hawaii, with 29 people hospitalized.
The dates when the ill person worked at the Chili’s restaurant are July 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, and 27, 2016. The Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant worked from July 1 through the 26, 2016. You can see the flight numbers that the attendant worked at the Hawaii DOH web site.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said, “At this time, no infections have been linked to exposure at these businesses and they are not sources of the outbreak. We are alerting the public only as a precaution; the risk of transmission is extremely low and these businesses are working with us to help prevent potentially new cases in our community.”
Hawaiian Airlines has been named because the infected crew member served inflight food and beverages to passengers. You can get more information about the flights and support available at the Hawaiian Airlines web site.
The problem with this illness is that people are infectious long before they know they are sick. The infectious period can start as long as two weeks before any symptoms appear.
If you consumed food or beverages from that restaurant, or were on one of the flights named in the announcement, contact your healthcare provider about the possibility of a hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccination. Those shots are only effective if given within two weeks of exposure. That means if you were potentially exposed before July 20, 2016, it’s too late for a shot. All you can do is monitor yourself for the symptoms of hepatitis A and see your doctor if they develop. Symptoms can take up to 50 days to appear.
To prevent the spread of this illness, wash your hands well after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or caring for someone who is sick. Think about taking sick leave if you have been exposed and serve or prepare food or beverages for others. And stay home if you are sick, especially with a diarrheal illness.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fatigue, lethargy, clay colored stools, dark urine, fever, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can last as long as six months.