Hawaii’s Hepatitis A Outbreak Traced Back to Raw Seafood from Philippines

Hawaii’s Hepatitis A Outbreak Traced Back to Raw Seafood from Philippines

A recent hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened more than 100 people in Hawaii was linked to frozen scallops imported from Philippines. The scallops were used raw by a sushi restaurant chain in the Aloha State.

Genki Sushi said that it is currently sanitizing its counters and equipment at several of its locations. Nevertheless, state authorities ordered 11 of its restaurants to be shut down. Reportedly, one venue in Kauai and 10 more in Oahu will be forced to close doors.

If they plan to remain in business, the said restaurants must trash the contaminated items and food supply and disinfect their location before welcoming new customers. The Hawaii State Department of Health announced Aug. 19 that the outbreak was associated to frozen scallops which were later served raw.

According to the department, the outbreak affected 168 people, who are now experiencing fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, but most importantly they can pass on the virus to healthy individuals.

Health authorities said that the hepatitis A virus can travel from one person to another through personal contact or sexual intercourse, or can be contracted from contaminated food, water and surfaces.

Hawaii’s public health officials praised the restaurant chain for its collaboration in containing the spread of the disease. Authorities described the chain as a “good partner” which did not kept secret any details related to its food supply.

Genki Sushi, reportedly, provided investigators with distribution records, invoices and another relevant information. Plus, the firm complied with authorities’ order to close the 11 locations no questions asked.

Mary Hansen, the chain’s CAO, explained that the company cooperated with authorities so they can get to the bottom of this and allow the firm reopen its restaurants as soon as possible.

At Genki Sushi, customers sitting at a table or counter can select their favorite dish from a mobile conveyor belt that carries sushi items within their reach. Just two restaurants in the area, one in Maui and one on Big Island, were not forced to close.

Authorities said they found no evidence that contaminated scallops landed on those restaurants’ plates as well. Officials learned about the outbreak July 1, but they had a hard time in finding its source because hepatitis A virus has a fairly long incubation period.

This means that you can get infected with the virus and only experience first symptoms between 14 days to 28 days later. Many patients dismiss symptoms as being caused by other conditions and they fail to go to the doctor, thus, sickening other people in the meantime.

Plus, it is hard to recall what one has eaten two weeks to a month ago and all the people that person has come in contact with. But Hawaii epidemiologists stumbled upon one detail that 70 percent of those infected shared: they had consumed sushi at Genki.

Yet, just 23 percent of patients told authorities that they had been at Genki Sushi during that time period. Investigators said that it is the first time they get such response for a grocery store, restaurant or food chain.
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