The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health is working closely with local health departments in Berkeley and Jefferson counties to investigate reports of illnesses linked to a national outbreak of hepatitis A. Nationally, more than fifty people have been impacted by the outbreak associated with Egypt-sourced frozen strawberries used by restaurants in a variety of smoothies.
“The Bureau for Public Health has received reports of seven cases of hepatitis A that we are currently investigating in Berkeley and Jefferson counties,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health. “Three of these cases of hepatitis A have been directly linked to the outbreak.”
While there is no information to suggest there is an ongoing risk of hepatitis A virus from the strawberries used in the smoothies, there can be transmission from person to person with contacts of the reported cases.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus and it is highly contagious. It is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A does not result in chronic infection.
“Not everyone will experience symptoms from a hepatitis A virus infection,” Gupta added. “Some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms. Other symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection include yellow eyes or skin, abdominal pain, pale stools or dark urine. Fortunately, a vaccine to prevent against hepatitis A is available.”
In Virginia, where the outbreak started, health officials now report 55 Virginia residents who had tested positive for hepatitis A reported consuming a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café prior to becoming ill.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration are leading the outbreak investigation nationally.
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