Three Homer residents diagnosed with hepatitis

Posted: Sunday, January 14, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three Homer residents who attended the same holiday party have tested positive for hepatitis A, a potentially fatal liver disease.

State health organizations said Friday that about 300 people from Anchorage and from Kenai Peninsula communities attended a company party for Icicle Seafoods on Dec. 2. The party is the only potential connection made for the three lab-confirmed cases of hepatitis A.

Icicle Seafoods' party was held at Land's End Resort, a hotel and restaurant at the end of the Homer Spit. Icicle provided the seafood for the party and the Land's End staff prepared it, said Bill Wasowicz, general manager of the resort.

The origin of illness in the Homer cases is still in question. As of Friday, the state Section of Epidemiology and the Department of Environmental Conservation did not know if the cases had been spread through food.

The virus, which can cause fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and jaundice, is contracted through fecal material. Sometimes that can mean a person with hepatitis A didn't thoroughly wash his hands after using the bathroom and then spread it by touching another person or by touching food that is later consumed. A vaccine for the virus is available.

Beth Funk, state medical epidemiologist, said multiple cases of hepatitis A are reported every year in Alaska. The most recent outbreak that resembles the one in Homer happened in 1996, when 13 people aboard a crab-processing ship in the Bering Sea contracted the virus.

As of Thursday night, 43 people who attended the party had been tested for hepatitis. Results are expected Tuesday, Funk said.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can show up 15 to 50 days after infection.

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