According to a CDC outbreak update released Thursday morning, 89 people have now been sickened in an outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to drinks severed at Virginia-area Tropical Smoothie Cafes. The Virginia Department of Health subsequently updated the number of cases confirmed in that state to 80, ten more than the 70 reported in the CDC update.
The total number of cases now stands at 99, with 80 sick in Virginia and the remaining 19 cases coming from six other states.
Public health officials have determined that strawberries used to make the smoothies were contaminated with the virus. Tropical Smoothie Cafe ceased using the strawberries, which were imported from Egypt, once it was determined that they were causing the Hepatitis A outbreak. The company now sources its strawberries from an alternate supplier.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Linked to Ongoing Hepatitis A Outbreak
According to the CDC, frozen strawberries imported from Egypt are the source of an ongoing outbreak of Hepatitis A. The strawberries were used to make smoothies at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations, and “nearly all people interviewed reported drinking smoothies containing strawberries at Tropical Smoothie Cafe.”
Symptoms of Hepatitis A may take up to 50 days to appear after a person is infected with the virus. Therefore, although Tropical Smoothie Cafe has since switched to an alternate strawberry supplier, new cases continue to be reported at a high rate, and Virginia alone confirmed 7 new cases since yesterday.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe reported that it removed the Egyptian Frozen Strawberries from their Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina locations on August 8th. According to the CDC, “out of an abundance of caution, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has since switched to another supplier for all restaurants nationwide,” although the exact date of the nationwide switch remains unknown.
Virginia Hardest Hit by Tropical Smoothie Hepatitis A Outbreak
According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), “[as] of 12:00 pm on September 8, 2016, 80 Virginia residents who had tested positive for hepatitis A reported consuming a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café prior to becoming ill. Approximately 41% of the residents, for whom information is available, have been hospitalized for their illness.”
The youngest Virginia resident sickened in the outbreak is 14, and Virginia victims range in age up to 68. The cases began as long ago as early May and as late as in September. In Virginia, the case count by region is 45 in Northern Virginia, “11 Northwest, 14 Eastern, 10 Central, [and] 0 Southwest.”
Nineteen additional cases have been reported outside of Virginia, including 10 in Maryland, 5 in West Virginia, and one case in each of New York, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Hepatitis A: Symptoms and Prevention
Not everyone that acquires Hepatitis A will experience symptoms, and some infected individuals may only experience mild flu-like symptoms. Those who experience no symptoms of Hepatitis A can still spread the virus. Even those who do experience symptoms may spread the disease up to two weeks before their symptoms begin. Additional symptoms of infection with the Hepatitis A virus include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin), abdominal pain, dark urine, pale stools, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and joint pain.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A may take up to 50 days after infection to appear, and usually develop over a period of several days, not all at once. Some people may remain ill for as long as six months, though it is common for symptoms to alleviate within two months of falling ill.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination with the Hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine is now recommended as part of routine childhood vaccinations, and the vaccination can help prevent illness when given up to two weeks after a person is exposed to the virus. In addition to children, the CDC recommends that the following groups of people receive the Hepatitis A vaccine:
- Travelers to countries that have high rates of Hepatitis A;
- Family members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where Hepatitis A is common;
- Men who have sexual contact with other men;
- Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs;
- People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C;
- People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates; and
- People who work with Hepatitis A infected animals or in a Hepatitis A research laboratory.
If you or a family member became ill have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A and you would like to explore pursuing a legal claim, contact an attorney at Ron Simon & Associates for a free case evaluation by calling 1-888-335-4901 or filling out our free case evaluation form. Attorneys at Ron Simon & Associates have represented victims in past hepatitis A outbreaks nationwide as well as victims of the current Tropical Smoothie Cafe outbreak.