WAIKELE,OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An outbreak of Hepatitis A on Oahu has grown to 52 cases, and health officials said a Baskins-Robbins employee is among those who have fallen ill.
The Health Department said the employee works at Baskin-Robbins at the Waikele Center. Officials say anyone who ate or drank products from the ice cream shop between June 17 and July 3 may have been exposed to the disease.
People who may have been exposed and aren't vaccinated are being encouraged to contact their healthcare provider.
Health officials stressed, though, they haven't yet been able to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.
"This case demonstrates the potential to spread Hepatitis A virus to many others who remain susceptible," state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said, in a news release.
"In an effort to stem the spread of disease, individuals, including food service employees, exhibiting symptoms of Hepatitis A infection should stay home and contact their healthcare provider."
Park said the Baskin-Robbins store is taking the right steps by urging employees to get vaccinated, disinfecting surfaces and reminding workers to wash their hands.
"This could happen to any business," Park said.
Still, people outside the Baskin-Robbins on Tuesday said they are being cautious.
"You expect to come to a location to eat something and not have to worry about what's happening behind the counter," Billy Cruz said.
Jojo Pascual took some of her kids to that ice cream shop last month.
"I'll probably consult with their pediatrician," she said.
Hepatitis spreads through fecal matter that gets into food or drink -- then is consumed. Someone can have Hepatitis for as long as a month or two before exhibiting symptoms.
All confirmed cases of Hepatitis A so far have been adults; 16 required hospitalization.
Park said the Baskin-Robbins worker is recovering and doing well. She also said pharmacies have told the state Health Department they are stocking up on Hepatitis A vaccine, so it is readily available.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes. They typically last several weeks to as long as two months.
Two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine, given at least six months apart, are needed for lasting protection.
While a vaccine provides the best protection against Hepatitis A, frequent handwashing and properly cooking food can help prevent the spread of the virus.