State investigating outbreak of Hepatitis A on Oahu

Published: Jul. 1, 2016 at 3:28 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 1, 2016 at 9:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of Hepatitis A on Oahu that may be linked to food.

Of the 12 adults confirmed to have fallen ill, six required hospitalization. None of the adults are related, and they live in various communities islandwide.

The onset of illness ranged from June 6 to June 27, the Health Department said.

State health officials are eying poke as one of dozens of possible culprits, but health officials stressed the investigation remains preliminary.

"We were hoping that we would find that it was in a certain part of Oahu to help sort of focus in on a restaurant, or grocery store or an event but nothing is really coming out," said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

Park says one of the reasons the Hepatitis A is so hard to track is because people have it for a month before they start to show symptoms.

Hepatitis A can cause fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, cramps and jaundice. Symptoms usually last several weeks to two months.

"The older you are the more likely it is you'll have more severe symptoms and potentially require hospitalization," Park said.

The virus can be found in the stool of infected people, and is usually spread by eating contaminated food or drinking water.

"Hepatitis A infection is a vaccine-preventable disease, and fortunately, most children and adolescents have been vaccinated as part of routine childhood vaccination recommendations," said Dr. Virginia Pressler, Health Department director. "However, many adults have not been vaccinated and remain susceptible."

Hepatitis A vaccine is readily available. 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, frequent handwashing and properly cooking food can help prevent the spread of the virus.

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