The Virginia Department of Health is analyzing a hepatitis A outbreak associated with the frozen strawberries from a smoothie chain. The strawberries from Egypt used at Tropical Smoothie Café stores are to blame for the illnesses. This smoothie chain may not be the only place where these strawberries were used; other restaurants or suppliers are suspected to have imported strawberries from Egypt.
Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. Anyone can be infected with hepatitis A if they have direct contact with food, drinks or objects contaminated by the feces of an infected person. When symptoms occur, they typically last eight weeks and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, fever, and abdominal pain.
Diagnosing the disease requires blood testing, as the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other illnesses. It is more common in regions of the world with poor sanitation and not enough safe water; globally, around 1.4 million symptomatic cases occur each year. Moreover, in the developing world, almost 90% of children have been infected by age 10, making them immune by adulthood.
Hepatitis A can be transmitted by the parenteral route, but very rarely by blood and blood products; the most popular way of transferring the disease is the fecal–oral route, and infections often occur in conditions of overcrowding and poor sanitation.
The state Health Department is collaborating with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see which other restaurants could have also used Egypt imported strawberries.
After learning about the potential issue, Tropical Smoothie Café has stopped using the strawberries from Egypt at all of its stores, including those outside Virginia, and has found other suppliers.
People who have consumed the strawberry smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Café on August 5 to 8 could still benefit from the vaccine or immune globulin to prevent the disease. Health officials said that any person that has been already vaccinated or has had the disease is immune.
They also advised anyone who had consumed strawberry smoothies in the last 50 days to pay special attention to possible hepatitis A symptoms.
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