The Hawaii State Health Department ordered the immediate closure of nearly a dozen locations of the restaurant chain Genki Sushi on the islands of Oahu and Kauai amid the state’s worst Hepatitis-A outbreak in decades.
Officials have confirmed 168 cases of the virus since June, including dozens of people who required hospitalization, saying imported frozen scallops served raw at Genki Sushi are likely to blame. The scallops were imported from the Philippines, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and distributed by the Honolulu-based wholesale company Koha Oriental Foods.
A Hepatitis-A outbreak of this scale is unusual but not unprecedented in recent decades. In 2003, 565 people were sickened in Pennsylvania after eating contaminated green onions at a Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant. Three people died as a result. That same year, 297 cases of Hepatitis A recorded in Georgia were also linked to contaminated green onions. In 2013, 162 people across 10 states got Hepatitis A after eating products containing tainted pomegranate seeds.
Still, the incidence of the virus has dropped dramatically—by some 95 percent—in the United States since a vaccine became available 20 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends vaccinating children at 1 year old, but officials believe many adolescents and adults remain unvaccinated, which is part of why outbreaks like the one in Hawaii are concerning. Hepatitis A is rarely fatal, though it can cause fatal liver failure.