As of 12:00 pm on September 16, 2016, 98 Virginia residents who consumed a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafe before August 8, 2016 have been diagnosed with hepatitis A. That brings the total sickened, including last week’s numbers from the CDC, to 117. Other states with patients are North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
About 38% of those sickened, for whom information is available, have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe. The patient age range is from 14 to 70, and the illness onset dates range from early May through September. The count by region is: 57 Northern, 15 Northwest, 15 Eastern, 11 Central, 0 Southwest.
Strawberries imported from Egypt that were used to make the smoothies have been named as the source of the virus in this outbreak. Tropical Smoothie Cafes removed that ingredient from their supply chain on August 9, 2016, so there is no further danger from foods served at those facilities.
But hepatitis A is a very contagious virus, and person-to-person contact may continue for weeks. People infected with this virus are contagious for two weeks before symptoms appear, which means they can easily infect others before they even know they are ill. The case count numbers will most likely continue to grow, although they have slowed down in the past few weeks.
And the symptoms of hepatitis A may not appear up to 50 days after exposure. That means people may continue to be diagnosed after exposure in August until September 27, 2016.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes, clay-colored stools, dark urine, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you consumed a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafes in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, or West Virginia and experience these symptoms, see your doctor.
The best way to prevent the spread of this illness is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds after using the bathroom. The virus is shed in a person’s feces, and is spread through the fecal-oral route. Also wash your hands after caring for someone who is sick, after changing diapers, and before you prepare food or drink for others. And stay home from work or school if you are sick.