A traceback investigation has found that raw scallops have contributed to the hepatitis A outbreak in Hawaii.
In a collective effort, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come together to assist the State of Hawaii in the ongoing investigation of hepatitis A that has been recently linked to raw scallops provided by Sea Port Products Corp.
As of August 17, 2016, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) have confirmed that a total of 206 people have become infected with hepatitis A. According to the FDA, the hepatitis A cases started in Hawaii between June 12, 2016 and August 9, 2016, and all of the cases have occurred in adults. A total of 51 individuals have been hospitalized as a result of the infection.
In order to find the common source of the infection, the FDA performed a traceback investigation with the Hawaii DOH. The results of the investigation concluded that scallops imported by Sea Port Products Crop and supplied by Genki Sushi restaurant locations in Hawaii (on Oahu and Kauai), were at the root of the outbreak.
Two scallop samples, imported by Sea Port Products Corp, that had been collected on August 11, 2016, were further analyzed by the FDA laboratory on August 17, 2016, and found to be hepatitis A-positive.
Immediately after the laboratory results were confirmed, the FDA, CDC, and state partners informed Sea Port Products Corp that their scallops were the likely source of the hepatitis A outbreak in Hawaii. In response, on August 18, 2016 Sea Port Products Corp voluntarily recalled all frozen bay scallops that had been produced on November 23 and 24, 2015. These bay scallops products had been distributed to California and Nevada in addition to Hawaii. The FDA notes that according to Sea Port Products Corp, these products were not intended for retail sale. According to their website, “The FDA is working with the recalling firm to ensure their recall is effective and that recalled product is removed from the market.”
In addition, the Hawaii DOH ordered the temporary closure of the Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai.
Prior to this discovery, other hepatitis A cases were noted to have come from different food establishments in Hawaii such as the Papa Johns in Oahu on Waipahu Street and New Lin Fong bakery in Chinatown in Oahu.
According to the CDC, hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and is usually transmitted by the “fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water.” The infection can last from a few weeks to several months and symptom severity varies, according to the FDA. Within 15 to 50 days of exposure to the virus, syptoms occur. Common symptoms experienced by adults include abdominal pain, fatigue, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, pale stool, and dark urine.
Because hepatitis A originates and is transmitted by people, it is very important to perform hand hygiene in any food setting. The FDA encourages retailers and food service operators to wash and sanitize anywhere that the contaminated products were stored or served and to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after this cleaning process. As for consumers, the FDA shares that shellfish, water, and salads are the most frequent foodborne sources of hepatitis A. Transmission of hepatitis A can be avoided by thoroughly cooking any seafood. Through safe food handling and preparation measures, as well as performing good hand hygiene (thoroughly washing hands with soap and water) before food consumption and after using the bathroom, consumers can protect themselves from infection.
Those who are at a greater risk for foodborne illness (pregnant women, older adults, young children, individuals with compromised immune systems, and individuals with decreased stomach acidity), are advised not to eat any raw or partially cooked fish or shellfish. Individuals who are concerned are encouraged to contact their healthcare providers.