Hepatitis A infection confirmed in food service employee on Hawaii Island

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed a new case of hepatitis A infection in a food service employee on Hawaii Island.

The employee has a history of exposure on Oahu and worked at the fast food and catering restaurant, Sushi Shiono Waikoloa, located in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, Queen’s MarketPlace at 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Drive, from July 5 through July 21, 2016 (actual dates: July 5-8, 11-15, and 18-21).

If you consumed any food products from Sushi Shiono Waikoloa during this period, you may have been exposed to the disease.

The department says that the likelihood that patrons of this business will become infected is very low. However, as a precaution, unvaccinated individuals should contact their healthcare providers about the possibility of receiving hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which may provide some protection against the disease if administered within the first two weeks after exposure.

Since the outbreak began in mid-June, there have been 93 confirmed cases of hepatitis A, 29 of which have required hospitalization. All cases have been in adults who were on Oahu during their exposure periods. DOH continues to investigate and is working to identify the source of infection for this outbreak.

This is an increase of 19 confirmed cases and 3 hospitalizations from the last report on Wednesday, July 20.

All of the cases were on Oahu during their exposure period. Four individuals now live on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui.

Affected food service establishments who are unable to notify their customers directly are listed on the DOH website at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/hepatitis-a-outbreak-2016/.

These businesses are not sources of this outbreak. At this time, no infections have been linked to exposure at these businesses; the list is provided to prevent possible new cases.

Hawaii State law requires all unvaccinated food handlers (persons who directly prepare, serve, or handle food) who are contacts of confirmed cases be tested for infection and have a negative hepatitis A IgM test before returning to work.

A “contact” is defined as unvaccinated household members, unvaccinated sexual contacts, anyone sharing illicit drugs with a case, anyone sharing food or eating or drinking utensils with a case, anyone consuming ready-to-eat foods prepared by an infectious food handler with diarrhea or poor hygiene.

Once an infected food handler has been identified, DOH staff coordinate directly with the owners and managers of the affected food service establishments to ensure their employees are tested before resuming their work.

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes. Individuals, including food service employees, exhibiting symptoms of hepatitis A should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.

While vaccination provides the best protection, frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Appropriately cooking foods can also help prevent infection.

Pharmacies and hospitals have been stocking up on the vaccine since the outbreak. Longs Drugs and Walgreens both say they have ample supply and continue to ship the vaccine here as needed.

Health officials recommend that you:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper
  • Washing hands before preparing food
  • Appropriately cooking and preparing foods

The hepatitis A vaccine requires two doses given at least six months apart. For a list of vaccinating pharmacies, click here (PDF) or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.

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