Hawaiian health authorities continue to monitor the state’s largest-ever outbreak of hepatitis A that originated from a chain of sushi restaurants serving contaminated frozen scallops and continues to spread to other possible points of infection.
Documents filed in Hawaii Circuit Court by a woman who was potentially exposed to the virus indicate the hepatitis A outbreak currently extends to at least 51 places where food was served, including several Hawaiian Airlines flights.
According to a statement on Hawaiian Airlines’ website, infected crewmembers worked on 37 flights between July 10 and August 12. Most of the flights were inter-island flights, but other routes included Oakland, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Sydney, Australia.
Other infected food-service employees worked in several other Oahu restaurants, including Baskin-Robbins, Costco, Papa John’s, Taco Bell, and Honolulu Chart House restaurant. An elementary school is also named.
The source of the outbreak was traced back to scallops imported from the Philippines, sold under the Sea Port brand and distributed by Koha Foods. Genki Sushi, which operates a dozen sushi restaurants on Oahu, served the contaminated scallops between April and August 2016.
The outbreak has sickened at least 282 people as of Sept. 28, including 71 who required hospitalization.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus spread through food and drinks contaminated with fecal matter from an infected individual. Inside the body, the hepatitis A virus 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.
Health officials advise anyone who ate or drank at one of the affected locations, including the Hawaiian Airlines flights, to receive a post-exposure hepatitis A vaccination or immune globulin shot, which are still effective against the virus in the incubation stage. It can take up to 50 days for symptoms of hepatitis A to manifest.
The uncertainty of infection has prompted thousands of people to receive hepatitis A vaccinations. Two of the class actions seek compensation for those who may have been exposed and had to receive preventative treatment.