Virginia health officials warn of increased hepatitis A risk

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — According to the Virginia Department of Health, 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.

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.

So far, according to the Virginia Department of Health, ten cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed.

Other restaurants, and firms that supply restaurants, may also have received the frozen strawberries imported from Egypt. VDH continues to investigate cases and work with state and federal partners, including the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to identify additional locations where the product may have been distributed.

Anyone who consumed a smoothie with frozen strawberries at a restaurant within the last 50 days is encouraged to watch for symptoms of hepatitis A. If illness occurs, seek medical care and take steps to protect others from the infection.

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. The classic symptom of hepatitis A is jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or the eyes. Other symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Symptoms develop 15-50 days after exposure to the virus, which can occur through direct contact with another person who has the infection or by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated with the virus.

Individuals can contact their local health department with any questions concerning this investigation. For more information, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/hepatitis-a/.

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