Multistate Hepatitis A Outbreak Tied to Popular Chain of Smoothie Shops

Multistate Hepatitis A Outbreak Tied to Popular Chain of Smoothie Shops

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that smoothies served up in a popular chain of smoothie shops  may be behind an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in six states.

Public health officials also said that frozen strawberries in the chain’s smoothies probably caused the outbreak. So far, 55 people fell ill, but Virginia has 44 confirmed cases. And about half cases required hospitalization, the Virginia Department of Health said.

Additionally, the outbreak continues in the southeastern state. Authorities reported that the first cases of hepatitis A emerged in May and the outbreak is ongoing. All cases have been traced back to Tropical Smoothie Café’s strawberry smoothies.

Tropical Smoothie currently serves the delicious thick beverages in nearly 500 shops across 40 states. According to the company’s website, Egypt is the strawberries’ country of origin.

So far, the outbreak has spread to Oregon, Wisconsin, Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

Experts caution that the disease is highly contagious. People can get the virus mainly through contaminated foods. The high-risk foods include mayonnaise, poultry, and other meats. But basically, any food can harbor the pathogen.

Doctors explained that foods get contaminated through mishandling. For instance, a person who fails to wash their hands after bathroom use and carries the disease can easily contaminate food.

However, there are other means of food contamination. In the latest outbreak’s case, experts believe that strawberries came in contact with contaminated water.

Virginia authorities found that the outbreak may originate in a Tropical Smoothie Café shop in Gainesville where authorities learned one worker had the infection. Local officials recommended any customers that had eaten at the café between July 28 and August 18 to undergo screening for hepatitis A.

Medics caution that one can carry the disease and not know it as symptoms can be misleading. The most common disease signs include fatigue, nausea, headache, stomach pain, and sometimes a sore throat.

So, patients may think that they’ve got some type of flu. As a result, many fail to pay their GPs a visit and resort to self-medication. Others land in a hospital when they develop more obvious symptoms such as dark urine and yellowing of the eyes.

Experts estimate that about 99.9 percent of patients with hepatitis A get over it on their own. Unfortunately, these patients can spread the infection to the people they come in contact with either through food or body fluids.

Anyone who lives with somebody carrying the infection should undergo screening. Experts explained that the incubation period is relatively long (from two to four weeks), so the person has plenty of time to infect others.

Recommendations

If you suspect that you may have the condition or that someone you are living with may carry the disease:

  • Ensure you wash your hands properly
  • Refrain from kissing
  • Don’t share table utensils, dishes, and other objects that carry body secretions.
  • Sanitize the toilet bowl on a daily basis because fecal matter is the main channel of spreading the disease.

Last month, Hawaii reported a similar hepatitis A outbreak which authorities linked to raw scallops in the sushi products sold at a local chain of sushi restaurants.
Image Source: Flickr

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