About one in every four of the 288 people confirmed in Hawaii’s ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak has had symptoms so severe that they’ve required hospitalization.
The first person confirmed as part of the outbreak became ill on June 12, with the most recent victim having become sick on Sept. 28, according to Wednesday’s weekly update from the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH). All of the victims have been adults and all but six are Hawaii residents.
Genki Sushi restaurants feature a conveyor belt delivery system for food, sending plates of raw seafood winding through tables and patrons.
State and federal authorities identified the source of the infections to be frozen scallops from the Philippines that were served raw by Genki Sushi fast food restaurant locations on Oahu and Kauai. State officials ordered the restaurants to close on Aug. 15 and embargoed the scallops.
“Although the 50-day maximum incubation period from the date of the scallops’ embargo has passed, HDOH continues to be alert for people who have had onset of illness earlier but may present late to a clinician, as well as possible secondary cases. Secondary cases have been rare in this outbreak and have been limited to household members of cases or close contacts of cases,” according to the Wednesday update.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are involved in the outbreak investigation, the federal agencies have not posted updates since Aug. 19 and 24, respectively.
What to watch for and what to do
The CDC reports some people — especially children — who are infected with Hepatitis A do not have any symptoms. If symptoms occur, they usually appear two to six weeks after exposure. Symptoms usually develop over a period of several days.
If you do have symptoms, they may include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and a yellowing of the skin or eyes referred to as jaundice.
Symptoms usually last less than two months, although some people can be ill for as long as six months.
Almost all people who get Hepatitis A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months. Hepatitis A can sometimes cause liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in persons 50 years of age or older and persons with other liver diseases, such as Hepatitis B or C.
If you have had contact with an outbreak victim or consumed food or any beverages at one of the restaurants where an employee has been confirmed as a victim, consult a doctor immediately and specifically mention your possible exposure to Hepatitis A.
Public health officials are requesting that health care providers consider the outbreak when seeing patients with Hepatitis A symptoms and conduct appropriate tests.
People exposed to the virus who have not been vaccinated can receive a post-exposure shot that is effective at avoiding infection development. However, the shot must be administer within two weeks of exposure.
Information and resources from Hawaii health officials
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