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Hauula man says he got hepatitis A on flight with infected attendant

Susan Essoyan
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In this March 13 file photo, a Hawaiian Airlines flight arrived from New Zealand at Honolulu International Airport. A Hauula resident believes he got hepatitis A aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 65 from Oakland, Calif., to Kona, Hawaii, on July 26. A flight attendant on the plane who had eaten scallop sushi at Genki had hepatitis A but didn’t know it at the time.

A Hauula resident who believes he contracted hepatitis A aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court today claiming he was exposed to the disease by a flight attendant.

It appears to be the first case made public in the current outbreak that involves transmission from one infected person to another in a commercial setting, rather than from eating contaminated food or close contact within a household.

Most of the 276 hepatitis A cases so far stem from eating tainted scallops served raw at Genki Sushi, which were identified by health authorities last month as the source of virus and pulled from the market.

There have been a handful of secondary cases passed within households, according to the state Health Department. But no person-to-person transmission in a work setting had yet come to light.

The suit was filed by John Driscoll, an artist and plasterer who lives in Hauula, against Genki Sushi USA , scallops distributor Koha Foods and importer Sea Port Products Corp.

Driscoll believes he got the virus aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 65 from Oakland, Calif., to Kona, Hawaii, on July 26. A flight attendant on the plane who had eaten scallop sushi at Genki had hepatitis A but didn’t know it at the time.

Hepatitis A symptoms appear from two weeks to as long as 50 days after exposure, and people are infectious even before they realize they are sick. The virus spreads through contaminated food or water, or close physical contact.

Driscoll had not eaten at Genki, and none of his close personal contacts had hepatitis A, according to his attorney, Michael F. O’Connor. “Driscoll first began to experience symptoms of his Hepatitis A infection on or about the morning of Aug. 8, 2016, while at work,” the suit said. “He left work early at around 11 a.m. to return home and rest. While on his way home, Driscoll received a phone call from the State of Hawaii Department of Health to inform him that he had been exposed to HAV [hepatitis A virus] while on his flight on July 26.”

“The next day, Driscoll sought medical treatment and submitted a blood sample for laboratory testing,” the suit said. “Driscoll’s blood sample ultimately tested positive for the outbreak strain of HAV.”

Driscoll was working a special job at the International Marketplace in Waikiki, which was supposed to last for six weeks, but because of his illness, he only put in three or four days on the job. He is still recovering, according to the lawsuit, which seeks damages for pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses.

O’Connor, his attorney, said they are not suing Hawaiian Airlines because it did not serve the scallops so product liability law is not applicable.

The Health Department publicizes cases of food workers who have tested positive for the virus, so that patrons can take precautions, including getting vaccinations.

So far 17 food handlers have come down with the disease: workers at 13 different restaurants, two Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants and 2 cafeteria employees at different schools. None were Genki Sushi employees.

Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who is also handling Driscoll’s case, said it highlights the need to vaccinate food-service workers.

“Hepatitis A is the only food-borne illness that you can stop secondary transfer by vaccinating the people that likely would transfer it, which are close family members or people who work in food service,” he said.

Driscoll Lawsuit

38 responses to “Hauula man says he got hepatitis A on flight with infected attendant”

  1. rytsuru says:

    What a windfall for the truckloads of attorneys we have graduating every year!

  2. lowtone123 says:

    The article doesn’t specify the amount he is seeking but I’m sure it’s substantial.

  3. HawaiiCheeseBall says:

    … and so it begins.

  4. b_ryan says:

    Vaccinating all food-service workers is a tall order. We’ll see what happens with that. Also people should be aware of the consequences of consuming raw or undercooked food.

  5. wiliki says:

    Most airline food comes packaged. The attendant doesn’t handle any food. They just serve it to you.

    Is Genki Sushi still liable if the attendant handles the food without any gloves? Otherwise there is no close contact between the two. With so many people sick it might be possible that he got it from someone else.

  6. mcc says:

    It used to be people got sick, and then then got better and moved on. Now ambulance chasing attorneys and greedy individuals that want money for nothing file law suits.
    There is now way to prove this really happened.

  7. richierich says:

    The guy is borderline negligent for not going and getting vaccinated given all the publicity given to the Hepatitis A outbreak. If he can afford to fly to and from New Zealand surely he can afford $113 for vaccination.

  8. bleedgreen says:

    This is a reasonable lawsuit which seeks damages for pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. For those that criticize, try putting the shoe on the other foot. Hep A causes liver damage.

    • Ronin006 says:

      It is not a reasonable law suit. It is a frivolous as one can be. Genki Sushi is as much a victim as this guy claims to be. Genki Sushi purchased its products from approved food sources and can’t be expected to subsequently test everything it buys for more than 250 food borne diseases; no restaurant or restaurant chain can do it.

    • DRH says:

      How does he know it was the attendant? How about the people around him – you know the ones that sneezed on his food?

  9. islandsun says:

    I’m not going to feel sorry for Hawaiian Air.

  10. 808comp says:

    I think the passenger got his flight mixed up. Don ‘t belive Hawaiian flys direct to the outer islands except to Maui from the mainland.

  11. lsu11 says:

    Every time I get sick from now on I’m going to sue somebody because I had to have got it from someone I’m around!

  12. Oahuan says:

    Now its time to play…….FAST MONEY!!!

  13. Bdpapa says:

    Something fishy!

  14. justmyview371 says:

    Go after the deep pockets. Maybe enjoin them from operating until they clean all their planes and vaccine all their flight attendants and crew and ground staff.

  15. Bruddah_Shane says:

    and i’m supposed to fly back home for Thanksgiving. Getting Hep A from the airline staff is just crazy nuts. and you’re in close proximity to everybody else breathing in the recirculated cabin air? Ooof.

  16. FijiEddie says:

    This passenger could have picked up Hep A in Oakland. given th eincubation period of 2 weeks to 50 days…

    Since Hep A is relatively easily transmitted, and often people think they just had a bad flu (since they didn’t experience the jaundice symptoms), the disease is MUCH more common than thought…

    From CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm (notice bullet 2, esp.)…

    How is Hepatitis A spread?

    Hepatitis A is usually spread when the Hepatitis A virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person.

    A person can get Hepatitis A through:

    —Person to person contact
    • when an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food
    • when a parent or caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person
    • when someone has sex or sexual contact with an infected person. (not limited to anal-oral contact)

    —Contaminated food or water

    Hepatitis A can be spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus. (This can include frozen or undercooked food.) This is more likely to occur in countries where Hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. The food and drinks most likely to be contaminated are fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water. In the United States, chlorination of water kills Hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply.

    Look again at bullet 2, then look at this reminder about contaminated surfaces http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/31/airline-secrets_n_5043463.html:

    ““I worked for Southwest as a flight attendant. Those blankets and pillows? Yeah, those just get refolded and stuffed back in the bins between flights. Only fresh ones I ever saw were on an originating first flight in the morning in a provisioning city. Also, if you have ever spread your peanuts on your tray and eaten, or really just touched your tray at all, you have more than likely ingested baby poo. I saw more dirty diapers laid out on those trays than food. And those trays, yeah, never saw them cleaned or sanitized once.” —@melhow44”

  17. inverse says:

    “Of counsel: Ogawa, Lau, Nakamura and Jew”

    Yikes, lets not get racist about all of this. Actually, had to do research on this and did not realize there are many Asians with the last name JEW. Learn something new everyday…

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