Hawaii Health Department Investigating Hepatitis A Outbreak

"Health care providers have been informed and asked to notify us immediately if they have a patient they suspect may be infected. Treatment for hepatitis A infection is supportive only, and while most people will recover without complications, we are encouraging everyone to review their immunization record and talk to their health care provider about vaccination," State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said.

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health announced July 1 that it is investigating a cluster of at least 12 cases of hepatitis A infection in adults on Oahu, with six of those patients requiring hospitalization. Onsets of illness ranged from June 16 through June 27, 2016.

Preventable via a vaccine, hepatitis A is a virus that can cause fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes. The symptoms usually last several weeks to as long as two months. Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of infected persons and usually is spread by eating contaminated food or drinking water, but it can be spread through close personal/sexual contact.

The department wants residents to seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms.

"Hepatitis A infection is a vaccine-preventable disease, and fortunately, most children and adolescents have been vaccinated as part of routine childhood vaccination recommendations," Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler said. "However, many adults have not been vaccinated and remain susceptible."

"Health care providers have been informed and asked to notify us immediately if they have a patient they suspect may be infected. Treatment for hepatitis A infection is supportive only, and while most people will recover without complications, we are encouraging everyone to review their immunization record and talk to their health care provider about vaccination," State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said.

The vaccine is available at local pharmacies; two doses of vaccine given at least six months apart are needed for lasting protection. For a list of vaccinating pharmacies, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2013/07/IMM_Adult_Resource_List.pdf.

DOH also said that, while vaccination provides the best protection, frequent handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Additional information about hepatitis A is available at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/dib/disease/hepatitis-a/.

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