Federal and state health authorities have not identified the source of a Hepatitis A outbreak in the Hawaiian Islands that has sickened at least 135 people since mid-July and continues to grow. The outbreak is the largest outbreak of Hepatitis A ever to strike Hawaii.
Most of the Hepatitis A cases are concentrated on the island of Oahu with seven cases so far reported in the neighboring islands and one out-of-state visitor.
Hawaii health authorities and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that many of the infected people work in the food service industry. Hepatitis A is easily spread through the handling and ingestion of contaminated food and drinks.
Infected workers have been found in a Chili’s, Baskin Robbins, Costco bakery, Taco Bell, and a sushi restaurant. A Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant who served in-flight food and drinks is also among those sickened. Anyone who has visited any of the named restaurants is advised to see a doctor even if no symptoms are present, as it can take up to a month for symptoms to manifest.
Of the known cases of infection in Hawaii, 39 have required hospitalization.
Hepatitis A is a disease that causes the liver to swell and prevents it from working well. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and fever. Some people may also experience joint or muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, dark urine, itching, weight loss, or yellow skin and eyes.
The disease usually goes away on its own without causing serious complications, but it could cause liver failure in some patients, particularly in people with other liver disease and those older than 60.
The disease is preventable by vaccine, and health officials advise anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the virus to get a vaccination. Improved sanitation, such as regular hand washing, and food safety practices are also effective in stopping the virus from spreading.