The Hepatitis A strain linked to Tropical Smoothie Cafe outbreak is packing a wallop. Generally, about 20 percent of people with a Hepatitis A infection require hospitalization, but in this outbreak, the hospitalization rate is 46 percent.
The outbreak has been linked to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt, which were removed from all store locations on August 9, according to the company. But because Hepatitis A has an incubation period that can take up to 50 days, new cases are still being reported. So far, 81 cases in seven states have been confirmed: Maryland (6), New York (1), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (66), West Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (1).
Hepatitis A, a virus that affects the liver, isn’t common in the U.S. Since the vaccine against this virus was invented in 1995, the number of cases reported annually has declined 95 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cases that are reported are often linked to travel outside the U.S., Canada, western Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. The last big spike of cases reported in the U.S. was in 2013 when contaminated pomegranate seeds imported from Turkey were included in bags of Townsend Farm frozen berries.
Hepatitis A is spread from person to person, and when infected people handle foods or beverages that are consumed by others. People with Hepatitis A infections can be contagious for weeks before they start experiencing symptoms, and sometimes show no symptoms at all.
Symptoms of a Hepatitis A infection generally appear between 15 and 50 days of exposure and last about eight weeks. They include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools and yellow skin or eyes. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor.