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August 19, 2016: Health Officials Warn Of Strawberry Smoothies Hepatitis A Risk

Strawberry Smoothies Hepatitis A Outbreak News – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported on August 19, 2016, that it is investigating a cluster of hepatitis A cases that may be associated with strawberry smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Café restaurants in Virginia. According to the VDH announcement, genetic testing indicates that the illnesses were caused by a strain of hepatitis A that has been associated with previous hepatitis outbreaks linked to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt.

Tropical Smoothie Café reports that it has removed strawberries, sourced from Egypt, from all of its locations based on the VDH investigation and findings.

VDH Advice To The Public Regarding The Strawberry Smoothies Hepatitis A Outbreak

Imported frozen strawberries may be source of hepatitis A cases linked to Tropical Smoothie Café.

Imported frozen strawberries may be source of hepatitis A cases linked to Tropical Smoothie Café.

The VDH provided the following advice to the public regarding hepatitis A vaccination and hepatitis risk:

“Individuals who consumed a smoothie from a Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Virginia that contained frozen strawberries, on August 5, 6, 7 or 8, 2016, may still benefit from vaccine or immune globulin to prevent hepatitis A. (Vaccine or immune globulin administered within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A virus is effective at preventing the disease.) If you have had hepatitis A or have been vaccinated for hepatitis A, you are already immune and therefore not at risk for getting the disease. Anyone who consumed a smoothie after the frozen strawberries were removed from restaurants is not thought to be at risk for hepatitis A.”

The VDH also cautioned that anyone who has consumed a smoothie made with frozen strawberries at any restaurant within the last 50 days should watch for hepatitis A symptoms. Individuals who become ill should seek medical care and take steps to protect others from hepatic A infection.

About Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms of hepatitis A infection can include jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or the eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Symptoms develop 15-50 days after exposure to the hepatitis A virus. The virus can spread through direct contact with someone who is infected, or by consuming a contaminated food or drink.

VDH Advice For Preventing Hepatitis A Infection

  • Frequent Hand Washing – Always wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food. Frequent hand washing can help prevent the spread of the hepatitis A virus.
  • Sick? Stay Home From Work – People who have symptoms of hepatitis A should stay home from work, especially those individuals who work in food service.
  • Vaccinate – “Routine vaccination against hepatitis A has reduced the risk of this disease in the past decade. Vaccination is available to anyone, but specifically recommended for all children, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus. Hepatitis A vaccine is available from health care providers (including some pharmacies and travel clinics) to protect against this disease.”

The VDH also recommends that individuals contact their local health department with outbreak questions or visit their website to learn more about hepatitis A.

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