Costco has confirmed a worker at its Hawaii Kai store tested positive for hepatitis A.
The employee worked in the store’s bakery department and, according to a Costco spokesman, may have inappropriately handled food products.
Members who purchased baked goods prepared or packaged in the bakery between June 16-20 are being contacted by Costco.
Based on purchasing records, up to 2,700 customers are being contacted via robocall and letters out of an abundance of caution.If you don’t receive a phone call or letter, you are not affected.
“This is purely as a precaution. We’re not saying, Costco — just like with the other businesses — Costco is not the source of the hepatitis A outbreak. There is no evidence at this point that any of the products sold on the dates in question were ever contaminated,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist. “The risk is likely very low, because Costco does have a very strict policy about no bare hands on ready-to-eat products, and the person we talked to, the person used gloves and washed hands appropriately.”
“We have essentially identified someone who worked in their bakery for a very short period,” added Dr. Park.
Gregg Fraser of the Hawaii Restaurant Association wants to assure customers it’s still safe to eat out. “In fact if you go to a restaurant and you see the green placard, that restaurant that means the department of health has inspected it and they got a code of good health.”
The Hawaii Department of Health says that the likelihood that patrons of this business will become infected is extremely low. However, as a precaution, unvaccinated individuals should contact their healthcare providers about the possibility of receiving hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which may provide some protection against the disease if administered within the first two weeks after exposure.
Fraser echoes that sentiment. “We recommend that you do get a vaccination shot if you’re working in the food service industry but more clearly we want to make sure that people are following the procedures.”
The department confirmed 93 cases of hepatitis A as of Tuesday, July 26. Twenty-nine required hospitalization.
The source of this outbreak still has not been identified.
Health officials recommend that you:
- Get vaccinated
- Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper
- Washing hands before preparing food
- Appropriately cooking and preparing foods
The hepatitis A vaccine requires two doses given at least six months apart. For a list of vaccinating pharmacies, click here (PDF) or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.
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