• Follow on Facebook

  • what-to-do-media
  • puako-general-store
  • air-tour-kauai
  • Cheneviere Couture
  • PKF Document Shredding
  • Arnotts Mauna Kea Tours
  • World Botanical Garden
  • Hilton Waikoloa Village
  • Hilton Luau
  • Dolphin Quest Waikoloa
  • Discount Hawaii Car Rental
  • Say When

    September 2016
    S M T W T F S
    « Aug    
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    252627282930  
  • When

  • RSS Pulpconnection

8 New Cases of Hepatitis A – Confirmed Cases Rises to 284

Since the last update, HDOH has identified 8 new cases of hepatitis A.  All cases have been in adults, 71 have required hospitalization.

hepatitis-headerFindings of the investigation suggest that the source of the outbreak is focused on Oahu. Ten (10) individuals are residents of the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, or Maui, and five visitors have returned to the mainland or overseas.

CONFIRMED CASES OF HEPATITIS A
284

Onset of illness has ranged between 6/12/16 – 9/16/16.

EPA Awards Hawaii Over $18.6 Million to Improve Water Quality, Protect Public Health

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today awarded the Hawaii Department of Health a $10.3 million grant for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and an $8.3 million grant for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for projects to renew water infrastructure.

epa-logoThe Department of Health will provide low-cost loans to the counties to upgrade drinking water and wastewater facilities.  In Hawaii, where most of the wastewater treatment occurs along the coast, funding will modernize aging systems, and make facilities more energy and water efficient. Statewide, the total infrastructure needs for both clean water and drinking water are estimated at $3 billion.

“EPA continues to make substantial investments to protect Hawaii’s drinking water and incomparable coastal waters,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

Since 1989, EPA has awarded $314 million for Hawaii’s clean water infrastructure program. The state has issued a total of 89 loans totaling over $715 million, utilizing a combination of the federal funds, a 20% state funding match, plus the principle and interest returned as loans are repaid. The monies are used for a wide variety of water quality projects, including watershed protection and restoration, nonpoint source pollution control, improving water and energy efficiency, and traditional municipal wastewater collection and treatment systems.

Since 1997, EPA has awarded $168 million for Hawaii’s drinking water infrastructure program, and the state has issued 76 loans totaling $230 million. Funds support drinking water treatment and distribution projects, as well as developing water supplies, conducting sanitary surveys, and training drinking water operators.

In October 2014, EPA found the Department of Health to be in non-compliance for failing to expend its drinking water funds in a timely manner. The Department has been working under a corrective action plan since January 2015. EPA provided last year’s drinking water funding in phases as the state met the plan’s milestones. As a result of significant progress made, EPA is now awarding all 2016 funds. EPA continues to work with the Department of Health to ensure it achieves all commitments required by the plan.

Forty years ago, when the federal Clean Water Act was passed, Congress charged a fledgling EPA with the goal of making the nation’s waters “fishable and swimmable.” Achieving this goal requires communities to invest in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The state revolving funds are EPA’s primary tools for helping communities meet their continuing and significant water infrastructure needs. Each state maintains revolving loan fund programs, capitalized by the EPA, to provide low‑cost financing for water quality and drinking water infrastructure projects.

For more information about EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, please visit:  https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf

For more information about EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program, please visit:  https://www.epa.gov/drinkingwatersrf

Free Prediabetes Education Classes at North Hawaii Community Hospital

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 86 million American adults – 1 out of every 3 – has prediabetes, with only 11% of individuals aware they have the condition. Without intervention, many people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. In an effort to curb these numbers and promote healthy living, North Hawaii Community Hospital is offering free prediabetes classes.

north-hawaii-community-hospital-front

North Hawaii Community Hospital

Prediabetes is defined as having a blood sugar level that higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. People are more likely to have prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if they are over 45 years of age, overweight, have a family history of type 2 diabetes, physically active fewer than three times per week, and/or have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during a pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds. Additional signs and symptoms of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes include excessive thirst and hunger, change in weight, frequent urination and high blood glucose.

Classes will consist of three 1.5-hour group sessions, presented by a certified diabetes nurse educator from the hospital’s Diabetes Wellness Center. Topics covered will include nutritional education, carbohydrate vs. protein, the importance of exercise for good health, and awareness of complications caused by uncontrolled diabetes.

The class will meet October 12, 19, and 26, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Annex Building at North Hawaii Community Hospital. There is no charge for these classes and pre-registration is required. Please call 881-4832 to register or for more information.

Hawai‘i International AgriTourism Symposium

Hawai‘i AgriTourism Association (HATA) will host the state’s first Hawai‘i International AgriTourism Symposium on October 15, 2016 at the College of Hawaiian Language: Ka Haka ‘Ulu O Ke‘elikōlani, in Hilo. Industry experts from Hawai‘i, New Zealand and Japan will share their forecasts, trends and tips on how they compete on a global stage. They will share what visitors from their regions are looking to experience in AgriTourism, as well as perspectives on how they have diversified agricultural operations in innovative ways to increase profitability, reduce risk, and protect rural communities.

ag-conference-2016This global symposium aims to help people get on trend with the connections between agriculture and travel/tourism. The industry is an “economic multiplier” that impacts restaurants, lodging, health, and education. For every dollar spent at an AgriTourism farm, an additional $2.25 is spent within the community in food, fuel, and retail. The ripple effect continues with home based and small businesses that create value add products from the farm crop such as jams, baked goods, and beauty or health products.

ag-conference

As a popular and highly marketable segment of Hawai‘i’s $10-billion dollar visitor industry, AgriTourism is poised to take off in the next decade. It’s not only a viable part of the economy; it’s also an important way to preserve our island lifestyles and culture.

AgriTourism offers farmers and small businesses an incredible opportunity to expand their business using creative approaches, and innovative partnerships.  This symposium will show how the state’s largest economic industries, tourism and agriculture, merge to create economic diversity and innovation that visitors will pay for.

Farmers who include an AgriTourism component in their marketing plan can see substantial financial benefits. AgriTourism can provide the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable farming operation, and between a sustainable and an unsustainable agricultural region. With the potential of this niche market expanding at such a fast pace, there has never been a better time to learn more about AgriTourism.

Online Registration for Hawai‘i’s International AgriTourism Symposium is open at www.hiagtourism.org. Vendors who wish to sell products at the Hawai‘i Marketplace may also register online as well. For more information, please contact Lani Weigert, lani@hiagtourism.org. Space is limited, early registration encouraged.

UH BOR Approves Appointment of Carolyn Ma as UH Hilo Dean of Pharmacy

The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents approved the appointment of Carolyn Ma to be the second dean of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) at a meeting held on Maui on September 22.

Carolyn Ma

Carolyn Ma

Ma has served as interim dean since Founding Dean John Pezzuto left UH Hilo in August 2015. UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney said he asked UH President David Lassner to appoint Ma as permanent dean because “important work will be required” to prepare for an accreditation visit in March 2017 as well as to “continue ongoing efforts to enhance recruitment.”

“The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy plays a critical role for our campus, our communities and our state,” Straney wrote in a letter to DKICP faculty and staff about the decision. “Dr. Ma has successfully guided the College in her year as interim dean. The College finances are secure and construction of a permanent facility has begun.”

Born and raised on O`ahu, Ma earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Santa Clara in California, and her doctor in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from the University of California-San Francisco. She was awarded a residency in clinical pharmacy practice at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Department of Pharmacy in Philadelphia. She went on to become an advanced oncology resident in the Department of Pharmacy and Drug Information at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

With an extensive background in clinical pharmacy practice, pharmacy and hospital administration, Ma is a registered pharmacist with licenses in Hawaiʻi, Nevada and California and remains boarded in Oncology Pharmacy. She joined DKICP in 2007 as the clinical education coordinator and designed, constructed and implemented 4,200-square feet of space in what is formerly known as the Gold Bond building in Kakaako on O`ahu. Additionally, in preparation for the advanced rotations, or internships for student pharmacists, she helped place numerous faculty in residence at O`ahu, Maui and Kaua`i hospitals and clinics.

Former Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed her Director for O`ahu on the Hawaiʻi State Board of Pharmacy from 2011- 2015 and Governor Ige re-appointed her to a 2015-2019 term. She also is past president of the Hawaiʻi Pharmacists Association (HPhA).

“Dr. Ma’s impeccable credentials give us a strong foothold as we take the College of Pharmacy to the next level,” Straney said. “Meanwhile, this milestone comes at a timely juncture as bulldozers are currently at work on the construction of the permanent building. This is truly a testament to Senator Daniel Inouye’s dream of making the College the ‘center of excellence’ for Hawaiʻi Island.”

Makers of the Prescription Drug that Treats Opioid Addiction Sued for Antitrust Practices

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin and 35 other attorneys general today filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, over allegations that the companies engaged in a scheme to block generic competitors and cause purchasers to pay artificially high prices.

suboxoneSuboxone is a brand-name prescription drug used to treat heroin addiction and other opioid addictions by easing addiction cravings. No generic alternative of the film is currently available.

Attorney General Chin said, “Helping addicts recover from the deadly effects of opioids is a top priority here and in other states. This week I had commented on the legal authority in Hawaii to prescribe Suboxone for the purpose of opioid detoxification or maintenance treatment of opioid dependence. Unfortunately, the makers of this drug have capitalized on this serious public health crisis and raked in huge corporate profits.”

Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is accused of conspiring with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone from a tablet version to a film (that dissolves in the mouth) in order to prevent or delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits. The companies are accused of violating state and federal antitrust laws.

According to the lawsuit, when Reckitt introduced Suboxone in 2002 (in tablet form), it had exclusivity protection that lasted for seven years, meaning no generic version could enter the market during that time. Before that period ended, however, Reckitt worked with MonoSol to create a new version of Suboxone – a dissolvable film, similar in size to a breath strip. Over time, Reckitt allegedly converted the market away from the tablet to the film through marketing, price adjustments, and other methods. Ultimately, after the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, Reckitt removed the tablet from the U.S. market.

The attorneys general allege that this conduct was illegal “product hopping,” where a company makes modest changes to its product to extend patent protections so other companies can’t enter the market and offer cheaper generic alternatives. According to the suit, the Suboxone film provided no real benefit over the tablet and Reckitt continued to sell the tablets in other countries even after removing them from the U.S. market. Reckitt also allegedly expressed unfounded safety concerns about the tablet version and intentionally delayed FDA approval of generic versions of Suboxone.

As a result, the attorneys general allege that consumers and purchasers have paid artificially high monopoly prices since late 2009, when generic alternatives of Suboxone might otherwise have become available. During that time, annual sales of Suboxone topped $1 billion.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania, accuses the companies of violating the federal Sherman Act and state laws. Counts include conspiracy to monopolize and illegal restraint of trade. In the suit, the attorneys general ask the court to stop the companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct, to restore competition, and to order appropriate relief for consumers and the states, plus costs and fees.

Attorneys general of the following jurisdictions joined in the lawsuit:  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Department of Health Workers Doing Door-to-Door Surveys Saturday on Oahu

Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) workers and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will be canvassing neighborhoods in McCully-Moiliili, Makiki-Lower Punchbowl, and Ala Moana-Kakaako on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon to conduct a Community Health Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER). Participation in the door-to-door survey is confidential and voluntary.

department-of-healthHousehold in these areas can expect to see teams of two volunteers wearing DOH identification badges and carrying clip boards. The purpose of this survey, or CASPER, is to gain a clearer picture of possible public health needs in case of an emergency or disaster. The survey includes general questions about household size, makeup and existing emergency preparations. The information gathered will help DOH and state and county partners better understand how Honolulu communities prepare for public health emergencies to then better shape response and recovery plans.

The pilot project was presented at a McCully/Moiliili neighborhood board and other meetings in the past months to encourage participation and collaboration. Project results will be shared with the respective area neighborhood boards and state and county emergency management agency partners. For more information, contact the Public Health Preparedness Branch at (808) 587-6569.

The Department of Health’s Public Health Preparedness Branch is funded by a Hospital Preparedness Program – Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Through the grant, the branch works to prepare for, respond to, and assist in recovery from natural and human-caused public health emergencies and threats.

The Hawaii Medical Reserve Corps has local volunteer members throughout the state and is housed within the Public Health Preparedness Branch. Volunteers are asked to attend quarterly meetings, participate in disaster preparedness exercises, and assist with non-emergency community health activities, such as the Stop Flu at School program, vision screening clinics, and community health fairs.

Gonorrhea Outbreak in Hawaii Showed Increased Antibiotic Resistance

CNN reported today that there was a gonorrhea outbreak here in Hawaii recently:

Seven gonorrhea patients in Hawaii are the first known US cases in which the sexually transmitted infection showed reduced susceptibility to the single available effective treatment option, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today. The patients were diagnosed in April and May.

The six men and one woman were all cured by ceftriaxone and azithromycin, the two-drug regimen recommended for treating gonorrhea by the CDC. However, laboratory tests by the Hawaii State Department of Health showed that the patients’ gonorrheal infections did not succumb as easily to the antibiotics as infections have in the past.
gonorrhea
CNN goes on to report that gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD):
“Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, but most people do not realize they have it. The only way they find out is through testing,” she said.
When health care providers do not treat according to the CDC’s two-drug regimen — a single shot of ceftriaxone and an oral dose of azithromycin — patients may feel better, and their symptoms may disappear, but they may still have the infection incubating inside them, explained Bolan.
“If you’re not treated correctly, you cannot rely on your symptoms to tell you you’ve been cured,” she said.
Though no failures of the current treatment regimen have been confirmed in the United States, the CDC has been closely monitoring antibiotic resistance.
“We usually see emerging decreased susceptibility or resistance coming from the West, starting with Hawaii, and then we also see a higher proportion of isolates with decreased susceptibility in men who have sex with men. This is a pattern we’ve seen with penicillin resistance and other antibiotics,” Bolan said.

Hawaii Attorney General Statement Regarding Suboxone Prescription for Opioid Detoxification

In light of recent inquiries regarding physicians’ legal authority to prescribe the drug Suboxone for the purpose of opioid detoxification or maintenance treatment of opioid dependence, Attorney General Doug Chin today issued the following statement:

“Last week the state Narcotics Enforcement Division was asked whether a doctor may prescribe the drug Suboxone for opioid detoxification or maintenance treatment of opioid dependence. NED subsequently asked the Department of the Attorney General to review the relevant statute to determine how the law should be interpreted and applied. Our analysis has concluded that current portions of section 329-38 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes can be interpreted in more than one way, but within the context of the entire section, the existing practice of doctors who prescribe Suboxone for the purpose of opioid detoxification or maintenance treatment of opioid dependence may continue. It may be appropriate to clarify this statute during the next legislative session.”

suboxoneSuboxone is a prescription medicine that contains the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used to treat adults who are addicted to opioids.

Hawaii Hepatitis Outbreak Increases to 276 Confirmed Cases

Since the last update, HDOH has identified 5 new cases of hepatitis A.  All cases have been in adults, 68 have required hospitalization.

hepatitis-header

Findings of the investigation suggest that the source of the outbreak is focused on Oahu. Ten (10) individuals are residents of the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, or Maui, and four visitors have returned to the mainland.

CONFIRMED CASES OF HEPATITIS A
276

Onset of illness has ranged between 6/12/16 – 9/15/16.

UHH Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy 8th Annual Health Fair

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy presents its 8th Annual Health Fair on Saturday, October 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo.

(l-r) Late Sen. Gilbert Kahele, a big supporter of the pharmacy college, stands with Class of 2016 students Josen Ho, David Ung and Miraya Talavera, who were tending a booth at the fair in 2014.

(l-r) Late Sen. Gilbert Kahele, a big supporter of the pharmacy college, stands with Class of 2016 students Josen Ho, David Ung and Miraya Talavera, who were tending a booth at the fair in 2014.

More than 150 student pharmacists will host education booths, health screenings, and giveaways. There also will be live demonstrations, entertainment, and a keiki poster contest for elementary- and middle-school students.

Participating organizations include Aloha Care, Bone Marrow Registry, Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, Crisis Line of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Island Diabetes Coalition, Hawaiian Islands AIDS and HIV Foundation, HMSA, Hui Malama Hawaiʻi, Medical Reserve Corps, NAMI – National Alliance of Mental Illness – Big Island, Partners in Developments, Senior Medicare Patrol, The Arc of Hilo and The Food Basket.

For more information, contact Tracey Niimi at 933-7663 or tniimi@hawaii.edu.

Hawaii Health Centers to Receive $753K for IT Enhancements

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard announced today that 14 Hawaiʻi Health Centers will receive a total of $753,064 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support health information technology (IT) enhancements. The funding is part of more than $87 million provided by HHS to 1,310 health centers in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin. The funding will support health IT enhancements to accelerate health centers’ transition to value-based models of care, improve efforts to share and use information to support better decisions, and increase engagement in delivery system transformation. This is the first significant investment directly awarded to health centers to support the purchase of health IT since 2009.

health-center“Health centers across Hawaiʻi provide high-quality health and wellness services that our communities depend upon. Yet, in Hawaiʻi and in states across the country, remote locations, lack of funding, and staff shortages make it difficult to keep up with rapidly changing healthcare technology,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Investing in our local health centers will increase information sharing, improve electronic healthcare record systems, and expand access to comprehensive, quality care for people in every county across the state.”

The following organizations are the Hawaiʻi recipients of the HHS health IT enhancement funds:

  • Hilo – $66,682 for the Bay Clinic
  • Wailuku – $52,900 for the Community Clinic of Maui
  • Honokaʻa – $46,535 for the Hamakua Health Center
  • Hana – $42,428 for the Hana Community Health Center
  • Līhuʻe – $46,320 for Hoʻola Lahui Hawaiʻi
  • Honolulu – $73,739 for the Kalihi-Palama Health Center
  • Honolulu – $54,075 for Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services
  • Kahuku – $48,198 for the Koʻolauloa Community Health and Wellness Center
  • Lanaʻi City – $41,749 for the Lanaʻi Community Health Center
  • Kaunakakai – $42,884 for Molokaʻi Ohana Health Care
  • Waiʻanae – $81,237 for the Waiʻanae District Comprehensive Health and Hospital Board
  • Honolulu – $55,087 for the Waikiki Health Center
  • Waimānalo – $46,056 for the Waimānalo Health Center
  • Kailua-Kona – $55,174 for the West Hawaiʻi CommunityHealthCenter

For a list of all fiscal year 2016 Delivery System Health Information Investment Awards recipients, visit: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/programopportunities/fundingopportunities/dshii/fy2016awards/index.html

To learn more about HRSA’s Health Center Program, visit: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/index.html

To find a health center in your area, visit: http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/

Hepatitis A Infection in Food Service Worker at Ohana Seafood in Sam’s Club Pearl City

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) today confirmed an additional case of hepatitis A in an Oahu food service worker.

sams-club

The infected case is an employee at Ohana Seafood, the seafood vendor located within the Sam’s Club warehouse store at 1000 Kamehameha Highway, Pearl City. Food handled by the employee may have been sold from August 29 to September 11, 2016.

“We expect to continue seeing new cases of hepatitis A infection through at least early October because of the long incubation period for this illness, even though the source of the outbreak has been identified as contaminated scallops,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “While this case involves a food handler working with raw seafood, the food handler is another victim, and none of the products sold by Ohana Seafood at Sam’s Club have been identified as a source of the ongoing outbreak.”

As with previous cases of food handlers who have tested positive for hepatitis A, DOH is providing this information to the public as a precaution in an attempt to prevent any new cases. The likelihood that patrons of this business will become infected is very low. To date, DOH has confirmed a total of 271 cases of hepatitis A as part of this outbreak investigation. Updated case counts and information are provided each Wednesday along with a complete list of food service establishments, which have had employees diagnosed with hepatitis infection within the past 50 days at the following link: http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/hepatitis-a-outbreak-2016.

Vaccination provides the best protection from hepatitis A, so any person who consumed food or beverage products prepared or served at this business during the identified periods may want to contact their healthcare providers about receiving a vaccine or immune globulin (IG). This may provide some protection against the disease if administered within two weeks after exposure. A statewide list of vaccinating pharmacies can be found at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2013/07/IMM_Adult_Resource_List.pdf or by calling the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.

Help prevent the spread of hepatitis A by washing your hands often and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food. For more information on proper handwashing, please go to the following site: http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/dib/infectious-disease-surveillance/handwashing.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls For Answers, Review of Care For Recently Deceased Hilo Veteran

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the following statement today calling for immediate review of the care that 68-year old Vietnam combat veteran Roy Hall received from the Hilo VA clinic before his death on Saturday:

(Image: Hawaii News Now)

(Image: Hawaii News Now)

“Roy Hall served in our country’s military in Vietnam, and like all veterans, he was promised quality medical care from exceptional health professionals. I had the privilege of speaking with Mr. Hall just a couple days before his death, and he shared the service-related illnesses, PTSD, and nightmares he has struggled with for decades. His wish was that his fellow veterans not endure the hardship and struggle he experienced, especially in the last few months of his life.

“My heart goes out to Roy’s ʻohana, especially his wife Edy. She shared with me deeply disturbing issues regarding the care her husband received—particularly during the last several months of his life and up to the hours before he passed away.  Roy’s last wish was to share his story with me and so many others in the hopes that it could lead to improved health care for all veterans. He told me to never give up and to continue fighting for our fellow veterans. I will honor Mr. Hall by never giving up and aggressively investigating the issues he and his wife have raised—for them, and for all of our veterans who deserve the highest standard of care.”

In response to investigations revealing egregious wait times across the country for veterans seeking an appointment with a primary care physician, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Access to Care and Treatment (ACT) Now for Veterans Act. The premise of the ACT Now for Veterans Act, to allow veterans to get the immediate care they need from non-VA medical providers, was ultimately included in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act signed in to law in 2014.

She has continued to push for accountability and systemic changes at the VA to ensure veterans get the critical quality care they need, including introducing the Veterans Administration Bonus Elimination Act to prevent bonuses for senior VA executives who fail to meet VA requirements for veterans health care, working to reform veteran mental health care, and more.

edy-and-roy

Hawaii Hepatitis A Outbreak Rises to 271 Cases – New Restaurant Identified

Since the last update, HDOH has identified 19 new cases of hepatitis A.  All cases have been in adults, 68 have required hospitalization.

Findings of the investigation suggest that the source of the outbreak is focused on Oahu. Ten (10) individuals are residents of the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, or Maui, and four visitors have returned to the mainland.

CONFIRMED CASES OF HEPATITIS A
271

Onset of illness has ranged between 6/12/16 – 9/4/16.

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) confirmed an additional case of hepatitis A in an Oahu food service worker. The infected case is an employee at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38, located at 1133 North Nimitz Highway, Honolulu. Affected dates of service are Aug. 26 through Sept. 12, 2016.

harbor-bar

“Because of the long incubation period for hepatitis A, we are continuing to see new cases of this illness even after identifying and removing contaminated scallops from Hawaii restaurants, and individuals exposed in July and August may become ill as late as September or October,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “We want the public to understand that this does not represent a new outbreak, nor is this restaurant considered a source of the ongoing outbreak.”

DOH is providing this information to the public as a precaution in an attempt to prevent any new cases. The likelihood that patrons of this business will become infected is very low. To date, DOH has confirmed a total of 252 cases of hepatitis A as part of this outbreak investigation.

Updated case counts and information are provided each Wednesday along with a complete list of food service establishments who have had employees diagnosed with hepatitis infection within the past 50 days at the following link: http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/hepatitis-a-outbreak-2016.

Vaccination provides the best protection from hepatitis A, so any person who consumed food or beverage products prepared or served at this business during the identified periods may want to contact their healthcare providers about receiving a vaccine or immune globulin (IG). This may provide some protection against the disease if administered within two weeks after exposure. A statewide list of vaccinating pharmacies can be found at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2013/07/IMM_Adult_Resource_List.pdf or by calling the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.  Help prevent the spread of hepatitis A by washing your hands often and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food. For more information on proper  handwashing, please go to the following site:  http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/dib/infectious-disease-surveillance/handwashing.

 

Zika Video Released by University of Hawaii’s National Disaster Preparedness Training Center

The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) at the University of Hawaiʻi focuses on natural hazards like climate change and other threats to coastal and island communities.

Under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, NDPTC has developed a short video in partnership with the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Health and the University of Hawaiʻi as part of its Just-in-Time Training initiative to promote awareness and deliver basic information about the Zika virus. The center has developed other Just-in-Time Training on tsunamis, volcanoes, and other emerging threats and hazards.

In this video, Sarah Park, state epidemiologist and chief of the Hawaiʻi Department of Health’s Disease Outbreak Control Division, provides key information about the virus including its potential for spreading from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus causing birth defects and transmission via mosquitoes and through sexual contact.

Zika has been found in the Americas, Oceania/Pacific Islands, Africa and Asia. According to the Center for Disease Control, travel-associated cases of the Zika virus have been found in every U.S. state except Alaska and Wyoming, and in every U.S. territory except Guam and American Samoa. Locally acquired cases have been found in only Florida, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. It is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes species of mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedis albopictus). With the impact of climate change there has been a growth in regions that support mosquito habitats worldwide, increasing the world’s vulnerability to mosquito-borne diseases.

Aedes species of mosquito

Aedes species of mosquito

“We are particularly concerned about Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases because of their potential impacts on vulnerable, at-risk populations,” said Karl Kim, professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and executive director of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center. “We need to increase awareness of the disease but also work towards effective strategies for monitoring as well as combating Zika. As a global visitor destination, Hawaiʻi needs a multi-pronged approach involving health care providers, urban planners, emergency responders, as well as households and businesses is needed to manage this health threat.”

Homeowners and businesses need to protect themselves against mosquitoes and implement effective programs for mosquito control. Training and education is needed to increase preparedness as well as response and mitigation capabilities.

NDPTC is committed to provide relevant and up-to-date training and education on the latest threats to our society.

Genki Sushi Receives Approval From Hawaii Department of Health to Reopen After Hepatitis A Outbreak

Genki Sushi announced today it has received approval from the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) to reopen its restaurants after full compliance with the department’s strict conditions, including confirmation that none of its employees scheduled to work for the reopening tested positive for hepatitis A. Genki Sushi will reopen all 10 of its restaurants on Oahu tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 10). Genki’s only restaurant on Kauai will remain closed temporarily to complete renovations already underway.

genki-sushi“Serving safe, high-quality food is always our top priority and we deeply regret that the ongoing investigation by the Department of Health is indicating that customers may have become ill from a food product that our restaurants on Oahu and Kauai received from a distributor,” said Mary Hansen, chief administrative officer for Genki Sushi USA. “After being informed by the Department of Health of its decision to temporarily close some of our restaurants while it investigated the source of the illness, we worked cooperatively with health officials to take the necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of our customers, our employees and the community. We are now pleased to reopen our Oahu restaurants and appreciate the understanding and support of our customers during this period.”

Genki has been closely communicating with DOH to determine what the company needed to do in order to eliminate any potential sources of the infection from its restaurants and meet specific requirements from the DOH to resume operations.

 “The management team of Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai has given us their full cooperation, and the department is confident that they are in compliance with all health regulations,” said Dr. Virginia Pressler, director of the Hawaii Department of Health. “Genki Sushi has been cleared by the Department of Health to reopen to the public.”

While DOH directives only called for the disposal of opened containers or packages of food items that may have been exposed, Genki Sushi made the decision to discard all produce and food items that could have been exposed, and sanitized sealed food packages as specified by the DOH. In addition, all single-serve equipment or utensils such as napkins, chopsticks, cups and takeout containers were also discarded.

Following state guidelines, all food and non-food-contact surfaces throughout each of the restaurants were completely disinfected with DOH-approved sanitizing formulas. The surfaces, including counters, machines, equipment, floors and walls throughout the kitchens, dining rooms, restrooms and employee areas were scrubbed and rinsed.

“We greatly appreciate the ongoing assistance and guidance provided by the Department of Health throughout this situation as we focused on the common goal of protecting the public’s health,” said Hansen.

All employees scheduled to work in the impacted restaurants were screened, tested and vaccinated for the hepatitis A virus subject to DOH standards and all of the test results were negative. The DOH also conducted food safety classes for Genki employees at each restaurant site which were based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) manual on hygiene and food safety. Genki Sushi will continue to follow the FDA manual on hygiene and food safety in addition to the company’s regular employee training and policies.

“Our entire staff has shown tremendous resiliency and teamwork in doing what was needed to reopen our restaurants so we can continue to serve our customers in the safest manner possible,” said Hansen. “It is very reassuring that none of our employees tested positive for the virus and we are happy that they can get back to work when the restaurants reopen. At the same time, our hearts go out to those who have the illness and hope for their speedy recovery.

“Genki Sushi is a longtime member of the local community with over 350 enthusiastic employees, and our restaurants have been venues for countless birthday and graduation parties and family get-togethers. We want to make sure that our customers can rest assured when they come in for sushi that they will be served safe, high-quality food,” added Hansen.

Genki Sushi remains committed to continuing to enforce its food safety and sanitation program and will work with health officials to make any recommended improvements to its policies and procedures. These efforts include continuing to require all of its managers to be ServSafe certified, a training program administered by the National Restaurant Association.

Genki is also taking additional steps beyond required state rules to ensure the long-term health and safety of its restaurants. Genki will also work with all its vendors to improve food safety policies and procedures. The company will continue to require that all its vendors are certified and follow Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) management systems for addressing food safety and handling, as well as FDA and DOH policies and regulations.

EPA Requires Mid Pac Petroleum to Install Air Pollution Controls at Big Island Facility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement valued at more than $600,000 with Mid Pac Petroleum, LLC, resolving federal Clean Air Act violations at the company’s Kawaihae facility on the Island of Hawaii.

mid-pac-petroleum

EPA claimed that for more than a decade Mid Pac Petroleum failed to install required vapor pollution controls and comply with a volatile organic compound (VOC) pollution limit at its gasoline storage facility. Failure to limit these emissions led to the illegal discharge of about 20 tons of VOCs into the air each year from its gasoline loading equipment. Mid Pac Petroleum will now spend an estimated $432,000 to bring its facility into compliance with the law, and has agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty.

“This is EPA’s second settlement in the past year that will improve air quality on the Island of Hawaii,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  “As with Aloha Petroleum’s facility in Hilo, we are requiring Mid Pac Petroleum to install air pollution controls, cutting health risks to local residents.”

Bulk gasoline terminals are large storage tank facilities where gasoline is pumped through a loading rack into tanker trucks for distribution to gasoline service stations. Vapors containing VOCs and hazardous air pollutants, including benzene, a known human carcinogen, can leak from storage tanks, pipes, and tanker trucks as they are loaded.

For more information please visit: http://www3.epa.gov/ozonepollution/

11 New Cases of Hepatitis A Reported – Confirmed Cases Now at 252

hepatitis-headerSince the last update, HDOH has identified 11 new cases of hepatitis A.  All cases have been in adults, 66 have required hospitalization.

Findings of the investigation suggest that the source of the outbreak is focused on Oahu. Eleven (11) individuals are residents of the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, or Maui, and four visitors have returned to the mainland.

CONFIRMED CASES OF HEPATITIS A
252

Onset of illness has ranged between 6/12/16 – 8/30/16.


The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed an additional case of hepatitis A in an Oahu food service worker. The infected case is an employee at Zippy’s

Restaurant, located at 950 Kamokila Blvd. in Kapolei. The employee worked evenings and nights at the sit-down dining section and bakery of the restaurant (and did not work at the fast-food window) on Aug. 14, 18–19, 21, 23, and 25–26, 2016.

“This case is a reminder that even though contaminated scallops have been removed from the market, the long hepatitis A incubation period means we must continue to remain vigilant for new cases,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “DOH will continue to work with the public and businesses to prevent further illness.”

The likelihood that patrons of this business will become infected is very low. Most people do not get sick when an employee at a restaurant has Hepatitis A. However, if an infected food handler is infectious and has poor hygiene, the risk goes up for patrons of that restaurant. DOH is providing information on food handlers to the public as a precaution and in an attempt to prevent any new cases.

Hirono, Senate Democrats Call for Vote on Clean Zika Funding Bill

Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Patty Murray (D-WA) called on Senate Republicans to stop stalling critical federal funding to fight the Zika virus. President Obama first sent an emergency funding request to Congress to address Zika in February.

mosquito-bite“It’s been nearly four months since the Senate overwhelmingly passed a compromise measure that would fund the fight against Zika,” said Senator Hirono. “Since then, it has become clear that Congressional Republicans would rather limit access to family planning services- which puts millions more women at risk of contracting Zika and giving birth to a child with microcephaly- than ensure that we are fully prepared to combat this disease.”

Earlier this year, Senator Hirono met with Governor David Ige, Hawaii Director of Health Dr. Virginia Pressler, and top Hawaii public health experts to raise awareness of the threat Zika poses to Hawaii families. Eleven travel-acquired cases of Zika have been reported in Hawaii.