Five states have posted notices, either on their Facebook pages or on their state web sites, about the facilities that may have received frozen strawberries imported from Egypt that are associated with a hepatitis A outbreak. At least 134 people in 9 states have been diagnosed with the viral illness since the summer of 2016. Most of those patients ate smoothies made with the frozen strawberries at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
Officials from Wyoming, Texas, California, Michigan, and Colorado have posted public health alerts about this issue. No hepatitis A illnesses have been linked to the berries sold in these locations, or in any other locations other than the original outbreak area, but the illness can take up to 50 days to appear so cases may be reported in the next few weeks.
The strawberries were recalled by The International Company for Agricultural Production and Processing (ICAPP) on October 30, 2016. That notice on the FDA recall page only listed the five national distributors who sold the berries across the country. It did not list the facilities that received the strawberries, the states where they may have been sold, or where they were sold or given to consumers, including schoolchildren.
The problem is that anyone who consumes these berries only has two weeks from the time of exposure to get a prophylactic vaccination against the hepatitis A virus. And because the FDA did not give consumers more information about where they might have consumed the strawberries, consumers must do the research themselves or ask the restaurant, school, or other facility where they ate if they sold or served the berries. The time frame for getting the hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccination is rapidly closing.
In Wyoming, the Sheridan School District served the frozen strawberries at Sagebrush Elementary, Henry A. Coffeen Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Sheridan Jr. High School and Sheridan High School on October 25, 28, 31, and November 1. The notice recommends that all school staff members, attendees, or parents who ate frozen strawberries at those schools on those dates get a hepatitis A vaccination if they haven’t already done so.
California posted a list 177 pages long of the facilities that may have received the strawberries. It includes schools, care homes, restaurants, and other locations.
On the state of Michigan web site, a list of known establishments that received the berries was posted. Those facilities include restaurants, taverns, and care facilities. And the Abilene Taylor County Health District in the state of Texas posted information on their Facebook page that the strawberries were sold under the SYSCO brand name.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin), weight loss, fatigue, clay colored schools, dark urine, fever, and loss of appetite. If you remember eating frozen strawberries and have experienced these symptoms, see your doctor. Tests can be performed that may establish if you are part of this outbreak.