The hepatitis A outbreak associated with imported frozen strawberries served at Tropical Smoothie Cafes in Virginia has grown again. Now 70 people in Virginia are sick with this viral illness. That is an increase of four patients from September 2, 2016.
About 41% of residents for whom information is available have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so serious. The patient age range is from 14 to 68. Illness onset dates range from early May through August. The case count in Virginia by region is 39 Northern, 10 Northwest, 14 Eastern, 7 Central, and 0 Southwest.
Tropical Smoothie Cafes stopped serving the berries, which were imported from Egypt, on August 8, 2016. That means that anyone who consumed smoothies that contained strawberries in Virginia locations could still get sick, since the incubation period for this viral illness is up to 50 days. But it’s too late for a hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccination for those people.
Hepatitis A is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It is very contagious and is spread person-to-person and through consumption of contamianted food and beverages. People who have this virus are contagious for two weeks before they show any symptoms. And some people with the virus may not show any symptoms at all, but can pass it to others.
If you consumed a strawberry smoothie or drink at Tropical Smoothie Cafes, or consumed a smoothie made with frozen strawberries at a restaurant in Virginia in the last 50 days, monitor yourself for the symptoms of hepatitis A. If you do get sick, see your doctor.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay colored stools, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. There is no treatment for this illness, but most people recover without complications within a few months. Anyone who has been vaccinated or who has had hepatitis A in the past, should be immune.
The best way to prevent the spread of this illness is to wash your hands well with soap and water before preparing food and beverages for others and after using the bathroom. If you are sick, especially with a diarrheal illness or the symptoms of hepatitis A, stay home from work and school.