Since June 2016 the Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed over 50 cases of hepatitis A on Oahu. As the source of the infections is investigated, it is important to understand the facts of the outbreak and the disease itself.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define hepatitis A as a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus and is highly contagious. Hepatitis A does not result in chronic infection. It is transmitted through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water.
The Hawaii Department of Health has listed places of interest where food service employees have been diagnosed with hepatitis A. Persons who have consumed food or drink products from those businesses during the identified dates of service should contact their healthcare provider for advice.
There is a long incubation period of the disease with symptoms appearing anywhere from two to six weeks after exposure. Such symptoms may include:
• Loss of appetite
• Abdominal pain
• Dark urine
• Clay-colored bowel movements
• Joint pain
• Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Symptoms usually last less than two months, although some people can be ill for as long as six months. A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear.
Fortunately, hepatitis A can be prevented. The best way is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine – recommended for all children, travelers to certain countries and people at high risk for infection. Another effective method of prevention is frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the restroom, changing a diaper or before preparing food.
If you have been exposed to the virus and/or are experiencing possible symptoms, contact your healthcare provider to discuss treatment.
Other informational links:
Hawaii Department of Health, Hepatitis A: Frequently Asked Questions
Adult Vaccination Finder (statewide)