Hepatitis A outbreaks popping up across US
Friday, September 30, 2016
Hepatitis A is a rare, highly contagious liver infection that is treatable and for which there is a vaccine. In 2014 — the latest year for which data is available — there were about 2,500 cases of hepatitis A in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But in the last couple of months, hepatitis A has been in the news since an unusual number of cases have been reported. The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is transmitted through contaminated food and water or direct contact with an infectious individual.
In August, the Hawaii Department of Health identified raw scallops imported from the Philippines and used in popular sushi restaurants as a likely source of the ongoing outbreak in that state. Through the end of September, there were 284 cases of individuals in Hawaii sickened by hepatitis A, including food service workers — one in an elementary school, and three more in at least two restaurants and one at a Sam's Club warehouse.
As a result, the scallops were pulled from the market and are no longer being imported from the Philippines
One of the first reports on the mainland was from CBS News with an outbreak involving at least 70 people in seven states, including 55 confirmed cases in Virginia. The number in Virginia has now grown to 105, as of Sept. 30. Due to the long incubation period of the illness — up to 50 days — the Department of Health in Virginia believed the first case actually could have been as far back as May.
The HAV infection in these cases has been linked to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt and used in smoothies served at Tropical Smoothie Cafés. The chain has approximately 500 stores in 40 states. Since then, the number of cases in Virginia has grown to 104, with reports from across the country, including West Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Oregon.
The FDA plans to increase their surveillance of imported strawberries.
In Montana, a salad bar employee from the Good Food Store, has tested positive for hepatitis A, and customers who ate there from between the middle of August until the middle of September may have been exposed to the illness.
The latest hepatitis A case has been reported in New York, at a popular local delicatessen in Long Island. According to the Nassau County Department of Health, a food handler has tested positive for the virus, and customers who ate there during the month of August may have been exposed.
Those infected with the virus show symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort — especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs — clay-colored bowel movements, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, dark urine, joint pain and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
Because of the long incubation period for hepatitis A, new cases of the infection could continue to occur through at least October. Experts recommend immunization against hepatitis A within two weeks of possible exposure to a person with the infection.
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