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Hepatitis A Continues to Spread in the United States

SEP 19, 2016 | KRISTI ROSA
Updated on 10/24/2016 at 1:019 PM EST

Hepatitis A has been making headlines lately as at least nine states have reported new cases of infections. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that can be transmitted by eating any food or water that has been contaminated with the hepatitis A virus, or through contact with an infected individual. Due to the fact that it can spread quickly, hepatitis A infections can result in outbreaks that can cost a substantial amount of money to quell.

Last month, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) issued a warning that there was an increased risk of hepatitis A in Virginia. Further investigation indicated that contaminated strawberries found in smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Café restaurants were the likely source for the outbreak. The contaminated strawberries had been imported from Egypt, and since August 8th, the strawberries have been removed from Tropical Smoothie Café locations. As a further precaution, the smoothie restaurant also switched suppliers for all locations throughout the nation, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) press release.

In addition to being highly contagious, hepatitis A has a long incubation period, and so an infected individual might not exhibit any symptoms until up to 50 days after they have become infected. Indeed, the CDC are continuing to identify a number of cases of individuals who had ingested the contaminated strawberries and have only recently started to exhibit evidence of infection.

So far, eight states have reported hepatitis A cases that are thought to be linked with the imported strawberries: Arkansas (1), Maryland (12), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (107), West Virginia (7), Wisconsin (5), and now, California (1), according to the CDC. There are currently 134 reported cases of infection. 52 of these individuals have had to be hospitalized. Almost all of the infected individuals residing in North Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia report to have consumed strawberry smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Café locations.

In addition to the hepatitis A outbreak linked with strawberries, there has been another hepatitis A outbreak linked with raw scallops that had been provided by Sea Port Products Corp. in Hawaii. The outbreak was found when the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) teamed up with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC to conduct a traceback investigation and found the link when examining scallop samples that had been imported by Sea Port Products Corp. and used within Genki Sushi restaurants.

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