Hawaii Department of Health officials said Wednesday that they have identified 38 new cases of hepatitis A, bringing the total of this summer’s outbreak to 206 statewide.
In addition, among the new cases was another infected food service worker, an employee of Hokkaido Ramen Santouka restaurant at 801 Kaheka St.
“Even though we’ve identified and worked 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,“ state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said in a news release. “Our work to control further spread of disease is not yet over.”
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 on 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.
Most of the 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.
The onset of the illness has ranged between June 12 and Aug. 9.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. More cases are expected because the virus has a long incubation period. 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.”
Park advised anyone who has eaten at Genki Sushi recently on Oahu or Kauai, 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 consumers to watch for symptoms of the disease for up to 50 days.
As for the infected food service worker, the employee worked on July 21-23 and 26-30, and Aug. 2-6 and 9-11, officials said.
Health officials said they are providing the information to the public as a precaution in an attempt to prevent any new cases. The likelihood that patrons of this business will become infected is low.
Vaccination offers the best protection from hepatitis A, so people who consumed food or beverage products prepared or served at the restaurant when the employee worked may want to contact their health care providers about receiving a vaccine or immune globulin.
This may provide some protection against the disease if administered within two weeks after exposure. A statewide list of vaccinating pharmacies can be found at 808ne.ws/29l6l7D, or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 211.