The Virginia Department of Health released another update on the hepatitis A outbreak among people who consumed a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafe before they got sick. Now at least 73 people are sick in this outbreak that has spread to seven states.
The patient age range is from 14 to 68. Onset of illness dates range from early May through August, 2016. The count by region in Virginia is: 40 Northern, 10 Northwest, 14 Eastern, 9 Central, 0 Southwest. About 42% of those sickened have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe.
The smoothies were consumed before August 9, 2016. Tropical Smoothie Cafes in Virginia received frozen imported strawberries from Egypt. Testing found the hepatitis A virus in some of that product. The CDC has not updated their investigation on the outbreak.
Those who suffer the most complications from this type of infection include the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic illness or liver disease. Hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), dark urine, clay-colored stools, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The symptoms usually begin two weeks after exposure to the virus, but some people don’t get sick until 50 days later.
Because people are contagious for two weeks before they start feeling sick, and because the virus is so contagious, this illness is easily spread. The modes of infection are person to person contact and through eating contaminated food and drink. A tiny amount of feces containing the virus can make you sick.
To prevent further spread of this illness, stay home is you are sick, especially if you have symptoms of hepatitis A. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or caring for someone who is sick. Always wash your hands well before preparing food and drink for others.
If you do get sick, see your doctor. Stay home if you are sick. And think about getting a hepatitis A vaccination if you work with the public in daycare, school, healthcare, or restaurant settings.