Tests conducted U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials have identified scallops imported from the Philippines as the likely source of a Hepatitis A outbreak in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Department of Health said Thursday that the FDA test results showed the presence of the Hepatitis A virus on frozen Sea Port Bay Scallops produced by Filipino company De Oro Resources Inc. and imported by Sea Port Products Inc. in Washington State.
Hawaii health officials have confirmed 206 cases of Hepatitis A, making it the largest Hepatitis A outbreak in the state’s history. Most of the cases are concentrated on the island of Oahu, but several other cases have been found on the other islands. At least 46 of those people infected have been hospitalized.
Hepatitis A is a disease that causes the liver to swell and prevents it from functioning properly. 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 virus is highly contagious and extremely hardy. It is able to survive freezing temperatures as well as the body’s highly acidic digestive tract. Hepatitis A can also survive outside of the body for months.
Although cooking food properly kills the virus, Hawaiian and federal health officials found that the frozen scallops were being thawed and served raw at Genki Sushi restaurant locations on Oahu and Kauai.
Health authorities ordered all 11 of the popular Genki Sushi locations, which serve sushi on a conveyor belt, to close immediately and dispose of their food supply, cups, napkins, and other disposable items. The facilities must also be thoroughly sanitized before they can reopen.
“This laboratory confirmation is an important validation of our investigation findings,” Sarah Park, State Epidemiologist with the Disease Outbreak Control Division at Hawaii Department of Health said in a statement Thursday.