The Virginia Department of Health is updating the hepatitis A outbreak case count in that state every day at noon. As of 12:00 pm on August 30, 0216, 44 Virginia residents who tested positive for hepatitis A reported consuming a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafe before they got sick.
About 50% of those sickened have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe. The patient age range is from 15 to 68. Illness onset dates range from early May through August.
On August 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified Department officials that the hepatitis A cluster in that state was caused by a strain of hepatitis A that was associated with past outbreaks due to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt. Tropical Smoothie Cafe stopped using the product at that time. They pulled all of the imported Egyptian strawberries from their locations around the country. Officials are conducting traceback investigations to see if the frozen strawberries were sold at other venues in other states.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, clay-colored stools, dark urine, jaundice, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually appear 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus, but most people get sick within two to three weeks.
There are vaccinations available to anyone within two weeks of exposure. After that time, all you can do is monitor yourself for symptoms of the illness. Unfortunately, people are contagious for two weeks before symptoms appear, so the virus is easily spread person-to-person and through contaminated food and drink.
To prevent the spread of the disease, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom, after caring for someone who is sick, and after changing diapers. Do not prepare food or drink for others if you are sick. And if you do get sick, see your doctor and then stay home, especially if you work with the public.