The hepatitis A outbreak in Virginia, that is linked to Tropical Smooth Cafe strawberry products, has grown to include 85 people in that state alone, according to the Virginia Department of Health. That number is current as of September 12, 2016. Frozen strawberries imported from Egypt have been identified as the source of the virus.
The patient age range is from 14 to 70 years old. Dates of illness onset range from early May through September. The count by region is: 48 Northern, 12 Northwest, 15 Eastern, 10 Central, 0 Southwest. About 40% of those sickened have been hospitalized because their illness is so serious.
But there are people in this outbreak in other states who are sick too. According to the CDC, these are the case counts in other states: Maryland (10), New York (1), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), West Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (1). With the 85 persons confirmed ill in Virginia, that makes 104 people sick total.
The frozen strawberries were removed from Tropical Smoothie Cafes in Virginia on August 8, 2016. But since hepatitis A symptoms can appear up to 50 days after exposure to the virus, the outbreak case count will most likely grow. People infected by the strawberries could start showing symptoms as late as September 27, 2016.
And since the virus is so contagious, and spreads easily from person-to-person, the outbreak could extend beyond that date. Anyone who is infected with the virus is contagious for two weeks before symptoms appear. In addition, some people who have the virus don’t show any symptoms at all.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, clay-colored stools, fever, muscle aches, and dark urine. There are no treatments for this illness. Those who are most likely to suffer complications from hepatitis A include the elderly, anyone with a chronic illness, and those with liver disease.
If you consumed a smoothie made with strawberries at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia, or have been in contact with someone showing the signs of hepatitis A, monitor yourself for symptoms. If you do get sick, see your doctor.
The best way to prevent the spread of this illness is to wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or caring for someone who is sick. Always wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food or drink for others. And if you are ill, stay home from work or school.