The worst hepatitis A outbreak in nearly two decades in Hawaii has now infected 93 people including a food service worker at a sushi restaurant and catering spot on the grounds of the Waikoloa Beach Resort on Hawaii island.
This is the first time during the outbreak that a restaurant at a tourist resort or on a Neighbor Island has had an employee identified as having hepatitis A. All of the victims so far were exposed to the disease on Oahu, but four live on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.
Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, emphasized that the sushi shop is not the source of the outbreak and the chance that the worker passed on the infection at the work site is “very low.” The public is alerted in hopes of preventing new cases, she said.
The state Health Department advises anyone who consumed any food from Sushi Shiono Waikoloa on certain dates in July to contact their health care provider about getting the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin to help protect against the viral liver disease. The precise dates of possible exposure are July 5-8, July 11-15 and July 18-21.
Two other food service workers at separate establishments on Oahu, Taco Bell in Waipio and Baskin-Robbins at Waikele Center, also came down with the disease earlier but there is no evidence so far that they transmitted it to customers.
This is the worst hepatitis A outbreak in the islands in nearly two decades. So far, 29 of the 93 victims have required hospitalization. The onset of symptoms for the earliest victims was June 12 and the most recent is July 19.
Hepatitis A can spread through contaminated food or water, or close personal contact. It is shed in the feces of infected people and just a tiny trace is sufficient to spread it. Thorough hand-washing is crucial after using the toilet or changing a diaper, and before handling food. The vaccine can prevent infection if administered within two weeks of exposure.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, nausea, vomiting, unusual stools, fatigue, dark urine, jaundice and pain. Most people recover on their own, but in rare cases it can cause liver failure. The disease has a long incubation period, taking 15 to 50 days to produce symptoms.
More information is available at health.hawaii.gov/docd/hepatitis-a-outbreak-2016/.