Hawaii Department of Health officials said today that they have identified 38 new cases of hepatitis A, bringing the total of this summer’s outbreak to 206 statewide.
The health department this afternoon confirmed an additional case in another Oahu food service worker, this one an employee at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka restaurant, 801 Kaheka St. The employee worked on July 21-23 and 26-30, and Aug. 2-6 and 9-11.
“Even though we’ve identified and work to confirm the likely source of the overall outbreak, we may continue to see new cases with hepatitis A infection like this person because of how long ago people would have been exposed,“ said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “Our work to control further spread of disease is not yet over.”
Most of the more than 200 cases are on Oahu but nine patients are residents of the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, or Maui, and one is a visitor who has returned to the mainland, officials said. All cases have been in adults and 51 have required hospitalization, they said.
On Tuesday, health officials said frozen raw scallops suspected of triggering the outbreak came from the Philippines and were served at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai but not other islands.
The state slapped an embargo on the suspect scallops and their distributors and shut down Genki Sushi’s 10 restaurants on Oahu and single outlet on Kauai late Monday. Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler said the department acted immediately after concluding the scallops were the likely source of the outbreak, the worst in the state in two decades.
The hepatitis A virus is a contagious liver disease and more cases are expected because the disease has a long incubation period. It typically spreads through contaminated food. Hepatitis A is spread through contaminated food or drink, or by close personal contact with a carrier. Its symptoms, which can appear weeks after exposure, include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain and jaundice — a yellowing of the skin and eyes.
The imported frozen scallops, chopped and served raw with mayonnaise atop a rice ball wrapped with dried seaweed, were among sushi items offered on conveyor belts to customers. The Health Department identified the product as Sea Port Bay Scallops (Wild Harvest, Raw Frozen), with the notation “Product of the Philippines.”
State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park advised anyone who has eaten at Genki Sushi on Oahu or Kauai recently, especially if they had scallops, to contact their health care provider about getting the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which can prevent the disease if given within two weeks of exposure. She also told them to watch for symptoms of the disease for up to 50 days.