Attorney: Hawaii Hep A patient needs liver transplant

Attorney: Hawaii Hep A patient needs liver tranplant
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the 228 Hawaii adults infected with Hepatitis A after eating raw scallops at Genki Sushi now needs a liver transplant, according to her lawyer.

The revelation Wednesday came as the state Health Department announced 22 new cases of Hepatitis A in Hawaii, as part of an outbreak that started in June.

It's very uncommon for a person who gets Hepatitis A to suffer liver damage significant enough to require a liver transplant. But that appears to be the case for an Oahu woman in her late 60s, who remains hospitalized.

Hawaii health officials say 1 in 4 of those infected in the ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak have required hospitalization.

But most have recovered fully.

Another Hawaii woman, also in her 60s, was initially thought to need a transplant. But her condition has improved and doctors released her so she can monitored at home.

Bill Marler, the food safety lawyer who is representing both women, say the pair did not dine together.

But they both ate raw scallops from Genki Sushi, which closed all 11 of its locations on Oahu and Kauai when the state Health Department announced the chain's scallop sushi was the likely source of the Hepatitis A outbreak.

The scallops were from the Philippines, and were frozen and served raw.

"Some of the people I've spoken to, their liver functions were in the 7,000s and normal is well under 100, so people were really sick," Marler said.

Dr. Danny Takanishi, a cancer surgeon and professor with the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, contracted the virus after eating at Genki Sushi on June 12.

"It was exactly 28 days before my symptoms started on July 10," Takanishi said.

He said the liver is a vital organ that helps remove harmful substances from your blood. When it suffers significant damage, it can cause serious problems.

"If the liver fails, basically all of the other organ systems tend to follow," Takanishi said.

Liver transplant specialists at the Queen's Medical Center perform about 15 liver transplants a year.

"There are a lot of people waiting for a liver," said Dr. Sumodh Kalathil, who specializes in gastroenterology and transplant hepatology at Queen's. "The demand keeps increasing just because we have a lot of liver cancer here and a lot of fatty liver disease."

Experts say while overall health ranges from person to person, it is extremely rare for someone infected with Hepatitis A to need a transplant. Those who do typically have underlying liver illness or prior liver damage.

"Usually, it runs its course and most of the people recover without any long term consequences," Kalathil said. "About 100 people die of Hepatitis A in the U.S. annually, but most of them do have some other form of liver illness and the Hepatitis A makes it worse."

Officials say there are about 30 people currently waiting for a liver transplant at Queen's -- the only center in the state.

In Hawaii, organ donation after death is the only way people who are waiting for a liver transplant can get one, which is why health officials encourage people to consider becoming an organ donor.

Patients on the transplant list are prioritized based on the severity of their illness, and the wait can range from days to months to years.

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