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Hepatitis A infections on the Rise in Hawaii

AUG 13, 2016 | FATIA KASUMU
*Updated 9/1/2016 at 9:54 AM EST

Since the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) began the investigation in July, 241 cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed as of August 31, 2016. This number is up by more than 150 cases since last month. “The public’s health is our primary concern, and we feel it is important to provide them with the most up-to-date information so they can work with their healthcare providers to protect themselves and their families,” said state epidemiologist Sarah Park, MD, FAAP in a press release. The DOH has not identified the source of the outbreak but conferred the possibility of a product that was mass distributed in Oahu.
 
The new cases come from different food establishments: Papa Johns in Oahu on Waipahu Street, and New Lin Fong bakery in Chinatown in Oahu. The establishments have reported that the dates the infected workers were on staff were likely in the range of mid-July 2016 to mid-August 2016. Although the likelihood of patrons being affected is low, the public has been advised to take precaution in an effort to prevent the spread of infection. “At the same time, we also want the public to understand that these businesses and the other previously affected food establishments are not the source of the outbreak,” said Park. An update of case counts can be seen on the DOH website.
 
Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dark colored urine and jaundice 
Infections may last up to 28 days and adults have the signs of the infection more often than children. Poor sanitation, unsafe water, and living with someone who is infected are among the many risk factors of the illness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While there is no specific treatment, individuals are advised to avoid, "…unnecessary medications. Acetaminophen / paracetamol and medication against vomiting should [also] not be given."
 
Hepatitis A infection can be fully prevented with a vaccine. Since June 2016, 16 countries have used the hepatitis A vaccine as a routine immunization for children, according to WHO.
 
Patrons who frequented the two businesses in Hawaii are advised to seek medical attention for a vaccine or immune globulin to protect against the infection. Individuals should also practice routine handwashing with soap and water and proper hygiene. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection is rarely fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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