2 hepatitis A cases on Kauai

LIHUE — The state Department of Health is investigating two cases of hepatitis A on Kauai.

Symptoms began in November, and an investigation is ongoing. The strain of the virus in both cases appears to be the same one circulating in California.

“As our investigators continue their work, we want to remind Hawaii residents that (the) hepatitis A vaccination is highly effective in preventing infection,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist. “With large, multi-state outbreaks occurring across the country, it is important that we all take precautions to prevent hepatitis A infection, whether at home, work, recreating or traveling.”

California’s hepatitis A outbreak originated in San Diego, and has spread statewide and to other states. Hawaii travelers to the Mainland may become infected during their visit, and can accidentally bring that infection home with them.

The virus is found in the stool of people with hepatitis A infection and is usually spread through close personal or sexual contact, as well as by eating contaminated food or drinking water.

A person who has hepatitis A can easily pass the disease to others within the same household. 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.

Appropriately cooking food and using safe food-handling practices can also help prevent infection.

Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea and yellow skin and eyes. Symptoms typically last several weeks to as long as two months. Persons should seek medical attention immediately should they develop symptoms.

The hepatitis A vaccine is included in routine childhood immunizations at age 1, and is recommended for adults who are at risk or want to protect themselves from hepatitis A.

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