It’s been about four months since we first told you about Hawaii’s hepatitis A outbreak.
Since then, it’s sickened nearly 300 people with another new case reported this week.
More than a month after we first asked, we’re finally getting answers on how much it’s costing the state to deal with the outbreak, and ultimately all of us as taxpayers.
The Hawaii Department of Health says it’s spent approximately $336,100 to investigate and respond to the hepatitis A outbreak.
Here’s how it breaks down: $304,600 were spent on normal staff work hours, and an estimated $19,750 went to pay for 300 hours of overtime work.
The rest went to pay for vaccines and lab specimen shipments to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the health department tells us that was covered by federal grant funds.
It took a lot of work for health officials just to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, including an online survey, numerous interviews with people, and visits to businesses.
Although officials identified the source — imported frozen scallops — they’re still not done with this outbreak. They’re now looking into a hepatitis-A-related death.
“The woman was in and out of the hospital really since she became ill in July, and so there were times where she needed a liver transplant,” said foodborne illness attorney Bill Marler. “She sort of seemed to rally. She got to go home for a little while, and then she was back in the hospital with complications.”
Marler says the woman, who was 60 years old and from Pearl City, did eat at Genki Sushi, where the hepatitis-A outbreak began.
He’s filed multiple lawsuits against the restaurant on behalf of people who caught hepatitis A, and on behalf of those who had to pay to get a vaccine to protect themselves.