December 4, 2016

Second Hawaii Food Worker Diagnosed with Hepatitis A

The Hawaii State Department of Health issued a press release that confirms a second case of hepatitis A in a food workers. That person worked at the Taco Bell restaurant in Waipio at 94-790 Ukee Street. There is a hepatitis A outbreak in Hawaii that has sickened at least 52 people; now 53.

Hepatitis A virus

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said in a statement, “it is important to note that neither the Waikele Baskin-Robbins nor the Waipio Taco Bell have been identified as the source of infection for this outbreak. These are merely places where the victims were employed. The likelihood that patrons of these food establishments will become infected is very low, but to prevent possible additional cases, we are notifying the public so they may seek advice and help from their healthcare providers.”

The infected person worked at the Taco Bell on June 16, 17, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, and July 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 11, 2016. Anyone who ate food or consumed drink at that location on those dates may have been exposed to the virus.

The vaccinations against this illness, immune globulin and hepatitis A vaccine, are only effective if administered within 2 weeks of exposure. That means that anyone who ate at that restaurant before July 5, 2016 is no longer eligible for a shot. The only thing those people can do is monitor themselves for the symptoms of hepatitis A and call their doctor if they get sick.

The symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, diarrhea, and jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes. Those symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after exposure to the virus. And unfortunately, people are infectious two weeks before symptoms appear, so they may infect others before they know they are ill.

Most people recover within a few weeks or months, but some people may be ill as long as six months. If a person has a pre-existing liver condition, they may become seriously ill and the liver may become inflamed. People in this outbreak in Hawaii have needed hospitalization because their illnesses have been so severe. About 20% of individuals sickened with this virus do need to be hospitalized.

Some pharmacies in Hawaii offer these vaccinations. To find one near you, visit the Hawaii Health Department web site for a list of locations and hours.

To prevent the spread of this illness, it’s important to focus on hand washing. The hepatitis A virus is spread through the “fecal-oral” route. People ingest small amounts of feces that carry the virus and get sick. Proper hand washing, especially before preparing food for others and after using the bathroom, is crucial. Anyone with the symptoms of hepatitis A should not prepare food or drink for others.

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