Imported scallops sold at Sam's Club and served at seafood restaurants in Hawaii are being blamed for an outbreak of hepatitis A.
As of last week, 271 cases had been diagnosed. The investigation has been centered on a chain of sushi restaurants on Oahu. All those afflicted with the virus have been adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water. More than 80 percent of adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, but the majority of children do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Symptoms can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice.
The local health department is suggesting anyone who has consumed the scallops may want to get a protective vaccine or immune globulin, even though the risk of transmission is very low. Because of the incubation period, health department officials expect to see new cases of hepatitis A continue at least through early October.
The scallops also were distributed to California and Nevada, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated. Hepatitis A rates in the United States have declined by 95 percent since the vaccine first became available in 1995. In 2014, 1,239 cases of hepatitis A were reported in the U.S., down more than 30 percent from the previous year. However, adjusting for under-reporting, the CDC estimates there was a total of 2,500 hepatitis A cases in 2014.
Ironically, the CDC says food service workers are among the groups who do not need routine vaccination against hepatitis A.
The number of people included in a class-action lawsuit against the seafood importer, the distributor, and the restaurant, could top 10,000 if it were to include those diners who did not get sick after eating the scallops but are still advised to be vaccinated against the infection.
Such a lawsuit is not unique. Last year a class-action lawsuit was filed against Hardee's Food Systems LLC of Delaware after customers and workers at two Hardee's restaurants might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. The lawsuit accused the restaurant of selling food prepared by an employee infected with the hepatitis A. In that lawsuit, it was speculated that as many as 3,000 people were exposed to the virus.
If you or a loved one has exposed to hepatitis A or another illness by careless food preparation at a commercial kitchen, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.