Two Hepatitis A victims have died in the outbreak in Hawaii that was traced to frozen scallops imported from the Philippines and served raw at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai.
A spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Health confirmed the two deaths Thursday. He said one of the deaths is not attributed to the victim’s Hepatitis A infection because the person was terminally ill and in hospice care.
The other death was reported to the state health department “earlier this week” and involved a woman in her 60s who developed liver failure after contracting the outbreak strain of the virus that was also found in samples of the scallops. Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler, who represents the woman’s family and about 75 other outbreak victims said the woman died last week.
“She did develop Hepatitis, she did suffer from liver failure and she just frankly never recovered,” Marler said. “She developed a number of other complications and unfortunately she passed away last week.”
As of Wednesday, the outbreak victim count was holding stead at 291 people, 73 of whom had symptoms so severs that they had to be hospitalized. All but two of the victims are adults. The first person confirmed in the outbreak became sick June 12. The most recent case is a person who became ill Oct. 9.
Marler said the dead woman ate raw scallops at a Genki Sushi restaurant in July. State and federal officials did not identify the scallops as the source of the Hepatitis A until Aug. 15. At that point they impounded the scallops and closed the Genki Sushi restaurants for cleaning and sanitizing.
Reports of new illnesses have been slowing in recent weeks, with no new cases reported in the past week, according to the health department’s Wednesday update.
“It’s a good sign that the numbers aren’t going up anymore,” Marler said. “I’m sure the health department feels good about that. Unfortunately we’re now dealing a woman who died from eating food. And in the United States in 2016, that shouldn’t be how it is.”
Editor’s note: Bill Marler is a founding member of the Marler Clark law firm and publisher of Food Safety News.
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