Findings of laboratory tests conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have found hepatitis A in scallops suspected as the possible source of an outbreak of the virus, which has so far sickened at least 206 people in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) announced on Aug. 18 the result of the laboratory tests of Sea Port Bay Scallops (Wild Harvest, Raw Frozen) produced by Philippine-based De Oro Resources Inc. and distributed by Koha Oriental Foods and True World Foods.
De Oro has already received an FDA import refusal in April this year on scallops that health regulators have described to be unfit for food consumption.
The scallops responsible for the current outbreak were served at the Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai. The products were first identified as the likely source of the outbreak on Aug. 15.
The result of laboratory tests prompted a statewide embargo of the product, which means that this particular brand of scallops cannot be sold, purchased or consumed all throughout Hawaii.
The HDOH also ordered all Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai to close temporarily. Genki locations on the Big Island and Maui served scallops from a different supplier, so they have not been linked with the outbreak. Scallops that have not been distributed by True World Foods were already embargoed at its warehouse.
The HDOH thanked the agencies that helped with the investigation. Health authorities, however, continue to conduct investigations on the outbreak, which are being hampered by the long incubation period of the disease and the difficulty among patients in accurately identifying the food products they have consumed and the places they have visited at the time they were infected.
"I would like to thank our federal partners, the FDA and CDC for their collaboration with our staff throughout this ongoing investigation," said Hawaii Department of Health Director Virginia Pressler. "The corroboration by the FDA of our data analysis and conclusions provides welcome and critical evidence for our continuing investigative work."
Getting vaccinated is the best way to get protected from hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver infection.
Those who have consumed hepatitis A virus-contaminated products may seek help from their health care service providers about getting a vaccine or immune globulin, which may give them some protection against the disease if administered within two weeks following exposure.
Children who have hepatitis A often have unrecognized infection, but more than 80 percent of infected adults show symptoms.