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Hawaii Hepatitis A cases up to 74; vaccine being redistributed

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has updated to 74 its confirmed case count in the ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak, which is an increase of 22 new cases since the department’s previous update last week.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-person-receiving-vaccine-close-up-vaccination-protection-image34491574All of the sickened individuals are Oahu residents, DOH noted, except for two people who live on the islands of Hawaii and Maui but were on Oahu during their exposure period.

Twenty-six of the 74 people have been hospitalized. Onset of the illnesses ranges from June 12 to July 14.

DOH is calling the following two local businesses “places of interest” because an employee at each of them has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A infection:

  • Baskin-Robbins at Waikele Center, where possible exposure dates were June 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 27, 30 and July 1 and 3, and,
  • Taco Bell at 94-790 Ukee St. in Waipio, where possible exposure dates were June 16, 17, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 and July 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 11.

Department officials cautioned that this doesn’t indicate that these businesses are sources of the outbreak, and that no Hepatitis A infections have so far been linked to exposure at the two businesses.

“The likelihood that patrons of these businesses will become infected is very low,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park, adding, “However, persons who have consumed food or drink products from these businesses during the identified dates of service should contact their healthcare provider for advice and possible preventive care.”

“Identifying the source of infection continues to be a challenge because of the long incubation period of the disease and the difficulty patients have in accurately recalling the foods consumed and locations visited during the period when infection could have taken place,” according to a DOH website page about the outbreak.

Meanwhile, some pharmacies on Oahu have apparently run low on supplies of the Hepatitis A vaccine and are either having to redistribute on the island or get additional supplies from the mainland.

“What we’re telling people is that we have a list on our website of vaccinating pharmacies and to call before they go in because some pharmacies might be temporarily out but have requested or ordered more,” said Gail Ogawa, a public health educator with DOH in Honolulu.

A single dose of single-antigen Hepatitis A vaccine, or immune globulin, may provide some protection against the disease if administered within the first two weeks after exposure. A list of frequently asked questions about Hepatitis A can be found here.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes, and symptoms typically last several weeks to as long as two months. Most people will recover without complications.

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