A Hepatitis A outbreak linked to strawberries imported from Egypt and served Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia has sickened at least 66 people in six states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 20 people have been hospitalized.
Most of those sickened, 55, are from Virginia. The other states reporting cases are Maryland (4), West Virginia (4), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1) and Wisconsin (1). The most recent case was reported August 23.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that is spread from person to person and through contaminated food and beverages. Infected people can be contagious before symptoms and sometimes show no symptoms at all.
It is expected that more cases will be reported as the incubation period with Hepatitis A can be as long as 50 days, said Nora Spencer-Loveall, a press officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But health officials do not believe there is an ongoing risk to consumers because the contaminated berries have been removed from store locations, she said.
Symptoms of a Hepatitis A infection include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools and yellow skin or eyes. Symptoms, which can last between three and eight weeks, usually start 28 days after exposure, but can appear anywhere from 15-50 days after exposure.
Information about all of the case patients is not yet available. In Virginia, the 55 people who were sickened between May and August range in age from 15 to 68. Almost all of them reported eating a smoothie before they became ill.