The confirmed case count in the Hepatitis A outbreak on Oahu now stands at 52, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health, up from 31 confirmed cases a week ago. All of those sickened are adults on Oahu and 16 have been hospitalized. One of the sickened individuals has been identified as an employee of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store in the Waikele Center in Waipahu, which is about 15 miles northwest of Honolulu. The health department confirmed Wednesday that the employee is no longer working at the ice cream shop. State health officials are advising anyone who consumed food or drink from the Baskin-Robbins in Waipahu on June 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 27, 30, and/or July 1 and 3, that they may have been exposed to the virus. The health department issued a Medical Advisory on June 30 to all healthcare providers urging them to be vigilant and report all suspected Hepatitis A infections immediately. “Unvaccinated individuals should contact their healthcare providers about the possibility of receiving Hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which may provide some protection against the disease if administered within the first two weeks after exposure,” according to the advisory. Meanwhile, the source of the outbreak is still under investigation, said Dr. Sarah Park, Hawaii state epidemiologist. “This case demonstrates the potential to spread Hepatitis A virus to many others who remain susceptible,” she said. “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.” Last week Park said it has been particularly frustrating to try and trace the source of this outbreak because those sickened have not reported eating the same foods or eating at the same places. As a result, identifying the food or drink that caused the outbreak is proving more elusive than usual. “The source of this outbreak has still not been determined. In the meantime, we encourage all persons consider and talk to their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated,” she said. While vaccination provides the best protection from Hepatitis A infection, other ways to help prevent the spread of the virus include frequent hand washing with soap and warm water, especially after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and before preparing food. Additional information about Hepatitis A can be found on Hawaii’s Department of Health website. 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. The state health department noted that the Hepatitis A vaccine is readily available at local pharmacies in the Aloha State. Two doses of the vaccine, given at least six months apart, are needed for lasting protection for people who have not been exposed. A list of Hawaii pharmacies providing adult vaccinations is available online, or by calling the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.
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