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Hawaii’s Hepatitis A outbreak could be coming to an end

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 22:33
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New cases of Hepatitis A infection in Hawaii’s outbreak linked to frozen, imported scallops are holding steady for the first time since the outbreak was announced, with only one additional person confirmed sick in the past week.

That additional illness brings the total of sick people to 289, with 71 of them having had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization, according to the weekly update from the Hawaii Department of Health.

Previous reports from the state indicated all of the victims had been adults. That information was not included in the Wednesday update this week. Confirmed illnesses began June 12, with the most recent person becoming sick on Sept. 28.

It can take up to 50 days for Hepatitis A symptoms to develop after exposure. Some infected people do not develop symptoms but are contagious for a period of time.

The majority of the confirmed victims reported eating at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu or Kauai before becoming ill. On Aug. 15 Hawaiian officials linked the illnesses to frozen scallops from the Philippines that had been served raw at the restaurants.

Officials ordered the restaurants to close 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 update from the state health department.

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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