As of September 14, 2016, 94 Virginia residents have tested positive for hepatitis A after consuming a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafes in that state. That is an increase of seven cases in Virginia from the last update on September 12, 2016.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating this outbreak as well. Numbers from the CDC of patients in other states are: Maryland (10), New York (1), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), West Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (1). That means that there are now at least 113 people sick in this outbreak. Nearly all of the ill persons interviewed reported drinking smoothies containing strawberries at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, according to the CDC.
The Virginia update states that about 38% of those sickened have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe. The patient age range is from 14 to 70. The illness onset dates range from early May through September. The case count by region in Virginia is: 55 Northern, 13 Northwest, 15 Eastern, 11 Central, 0 Southwest.
Frozen strawberries imported from Egypt, that were used to make smoothies, have been identified as the source of this virus. Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations have removed this ingredient from their supply chain as of August 8, 2016.
But since the incubation period for hepatitis A can be as long as 50 days, there will most likely still be patients identified. And the virus is extremely contagious and is easily spread person-to-person, as well as through food and drink, so more patients may become ill well beyond that 50 day time frame. And it’s important to note that some people who are infected with this virus will not show any symptoms at all.
Symptoms do not appear until 15 to 50 days after exposure, but anyone who is infected is contagious for at least two weeks before symptoms appear. People go to work or school without even knowing they may be spreading the virus.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, muscle aches, dark urine, clay-colored stools, fever, and jaundice. Patients who are most likely to suffer serious complications from this illness, including dehydration and liver failure, are the elderly, people with chronic liver disease, and anyone with a chronic illness.
If you drank a smoothie from any Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, or North Carolina this summer, monitor yourself for the symptoms of this illness. If you do get sick, see your doctor and follow instructions so you don’t spread the virus to others.
The best way to prevent the spread of hepatitis A or any illness is to wash your hands well with soap and water after using the bathroom, before preparing or serving food or drink, after caring for someone who is sick, and after changing diapers. If you are sick, with a diarrheal illness or the symptoms of hepatitis A, always stay home from work or school.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A; palliative care and rehydration are the typical treatments. Rest and time are the best ways to recover from this illness.