Honolulu restaurant worker is among 38 new hepatitis A cases
Hawaii News | Top News

Honolulu restaurant worker is among 38 new hepatitis A cases

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / OCT. 2013

    Hokkaido Ramen Santouka outside Don Quijote on Kaheka Street. A food service worker, an employee of Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, is one of 38 new cases of hepatitis A identified by state health officials.

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.

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  • At what point are people exposed to Hepatitis A determined to be actually infected and contagious? Right now people who have been close to a possible source are being advised to get immunized and monitor for symptoms of the disease for up to 50 days. When should people get tested for Hep A so they do not unknowingly spread the disease? By the time the symptoms show up in a person, they may have exposed others and the cycle continues leading to epidemic.

  • While the frozen scallops may have been the original source, anyone subsequently infected and contagious serves as a potential new source. Next time you’re in a public restroom, observe how many people exit a stall and leave without washing their hands. Now think about that having happened 15 minutes before you touch the door handle. If a critical mass is reached, we have an epidemic, but it seems our DOH is doing a great job in keeping us safe.

  • The ones I feel bad for are those outed in earlier stories like the Baskin-Robbins at Waikele or Tamashiro Market who lost a lot of business and even received some hate mail/posting on social media. It will take a long time for them to recoup their losses, if ever. At this point, going to any restaurant is pretty much at your own risk because we just don’t know if any of the workers are infected, but for those named in the early stories, they just took a major hit.

      • Only Genki bought this product and unless the food service workers were total non sushi eaters, that would be the most likely place for them to get infected. At first it was a Taco Bell employee. That did not sound right, their food is processed, cooked to death and given a healthy dose of preservatives. Nothing alive in there. Baskin and Robbins. I did not think ice cream. Normal contaminants of ice cream include salmonella and listeria. Tamashiro’s did not sound right either. They sell fresh stuff of known origin otherwise all of the poke eaters would have been dropping a long time ago. Good job CDC and DOH for finding it.

  • Because it took so long for the Dept of Health to pinpoint the source of the Hep A infection, its spread is now at the point where it will become an epidemic very shortly.
    I expect that Hep A will begin to show up in tourists who have visited here and will spread to the Neighbor Islands. Once this happens, game over.
    The only thing then to do will be a mass vaccination effort. The horse has already left the barn, too late to close the barn door.

    • @fiveo..Have you not been keeping-up with news? The incubation period for this infection takes 30-50 days to show-up, plus locals are afraid to talk because of the stigma attached to this infection and where you contracted it from. Honestly we all take that risk when they decide to eat-out or even buy goods from our local food markets. We as “American’s” import so many goods both food and material goods from countries that don’t have strict guidelines like what we have here in our country. We’re cheap people so we get what we pay for.

    • An epidemic? So they identified and got rid of the source and you think it’s going to get worse? Some logic you have there. Yes it’s highly contagious but now that people are aware the rate of infections should subside. You act like this is a death blow to tourism because ONE visitor was confirmed to have gotten sick. I know there could be more in the future but considering how many visitors Hawaii gets I doubt it’ll have any effect on tourism despite your doomsday prediction.

  • Gina Mangieri from Channel 3 News reports inspectors are always condemning food products from around the world. One such shipment from the Philippines was labeled FILTHY. Good work inspectors. Apparently inspection is only visual. To take samples from FROZEN boxes takes time and laboratory facilities, technicians, and more money is needed. Do we have these? I don’t think so. Way too many foodstuff coming in to inspect. Welcome to the realization that we are at risk for anything we consume from abroad and here at home. Get ALL your vaccinations: Hep A & B (no C available), TDAP, Zoster, Rabies if you can find it in Hawaii, and Flu yearly. Cook all your food medium well and say bye bye to raw seafood. Gonna miss sashimi, poke, and fish caviar. There’s a new drug to prevent Cholera infections you might get traveling. It’s called Vaxchora and is taken orally on the day before you fly. Protects you for 100 days.

  • If people didn’t eat those nasty, slimy, previously frozen scallops raw, we probably wouldn’t be having this problem. Who would knowingly do that?
    with a glob of mayo? I may get Hep A just typing this. I eat plenty of raw, FRESH locally caught fish. Oysters too, but I buy them from a mainland vendor, they are awesome. If you knowingly ingest raw slime, served as sushi then in my opinion you are taking your chances, and not just with Hep A. Giant clam anyone? Yuck!

  • Gross. I am imagining how human feces got on the scallops. The infected count is now 206. Here is how it spreads. Transmission: The hepatitis A virus is transmitted primarily by the faecal-oral route; that is when an uninfected person ingests food or water that has been contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. Wipe your butt, wash your hands clean, and wash your food!

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