Food safety advocate and attorney Bill Marler returns to Oahu to represent a victim of the outbreak.
Oahu resident Brant Mauk is suing Genki Sushi Restaurant and Koha Foods, who sold and imported scallops now believed to have triggered the Hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened 168 people and hospitalized 46 since June 2016. Michael F. O’Connor of Ogawa, Lau, Nakamura & Jew, and food safety advocate William D. Marler, managing attorney at Marler Clark LLP, the Food Safety Law Firm, based in Seattle, are representing the victim.
Marler is returning to Oahu Tuesday evening, August 16, having previously visited in July to act as a consultant for victims and their families. Marler, an advocate for the requirement of Hepatitis A vaccination in food service workers, will be in Hawaii until the morning of Friday, August 19. “The reach and extent of this outbreak is unfortunate, but unsurprising when vaccines aren’t required for food workers,” said Marler. “If policies on vaccination don’t change, this won’t be the last major outbreak we see.” Hepatitis A presents higher than usual risk in the food industry, since the pathogen can survive for months in salt and fresh water, as well as in frozen products.
Brant Mauk found himself among the outbreak’s victims in late June of 2016, when, some time after eating at Genki Sushi, he developed the flu-like symptoms that typify a Hepatitis A infection. A visit to the hospital and tests confirmed that he had Hepatitis A. He received a vaccine and was sent home on July 7th, but was hospitalized again that same day as the vaccine combated his worsening symptoms. In total, Mr. Mauk spent 7 days in the hospital, and he continues his recovery today.
Tracking the source of the outbreak proved difficult as the victim count increased, but the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) has at last succeeded in identifying the culprit. Genki Sushi Restaurants on Oahu and Kauai are now closed, as the HDOH has identified raw scallops sold at the restaurant and imported by Koha Foods as the likely culprits of the outbreak. Commented Marler, “The Hawaii Department of Health should be congratulated for taking decisive action. Sources for Hepatitis A outbreaks are hard to trace, but thanks to their efforts, justice can be done for those who suffered illness and continue to suffer today.”
The acute, flu-like symptoms of hepatitis A tend to kick in suddenly about a month after the virus is contracted. The illness usually lasts a few weeks, but recovery can take up to a year. Most affected individuals show complete recovery within three to six months of the onset of illness. Relapse is possible, although it is more common in children than adults.
The best protection against a hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated. An estimated 80,000 cases of HAV occur each year, although much higher estimates have been proposed. Hepatitis A is a virus that primarily infects the liver, and an estimated 100 people die each year as a result of acute liver failure in the U.S. due to hepatitis A. However, the rate of infection has dramatically decreased since the hepatitis A vaccine was licensed and became available in the U.S. in 1995.
Because HAV is so readily transmitted, Marler encourages restaurants and food handlers to adhere to strict sanitary protocols. He warns, “The virus is almost exclusively transmitted through fecal-oral contact. I can’t stress how important it is that all employees thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom.” For more information about hepatitis A, please visit www.about-hepatitis.com.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food. The law firm has represented thousands of individuals in class action lawsuits related to HAV, and have brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Costco, Subway, Red Robin, Chi-Chi’s, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Quizno’s and Carl’s Jr.