Hepatitis A outbreak caused by frozen strawberries sickens 89 people in 7 states

Nearly 90 people have fallen ill as part of a hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen strawberries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Of the 89 people reported sick in seven states, 39 of them had to be hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

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Health officials said on Sept. 1 that the outbreak appears to be linked to smoothies bought from Tropical Smoothie Cafes in Virginia and neighboring states. One other case, reported in Oregon, stemmed from a person who visited Virginia and had a smoothie from the cafe, according to the CDC.

Investigators said the smoothies in question contained frozen strawberries that were imported from Egypt. Tropical Smoothie Cafe on Aug. 8 removed all the Egyptian strawberries from its locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The restaurant has since switched its supplier nationwide out of an abundance of caution, CDC officials said.

A majority of the illnesses were reported in Virginia, where 70 people got sick. Officials in Maryland were investigating 10 cases. In West Virginia, five cases were reported. New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin saw one illness each.

Health officials believe the outbreak is now over, however the CDC warned that additional cases may be reported in the coming days. It takes 50 days for the infection to appear.

The Virginia Department of Health started investigating early last month after noting a spike in hepatitis A cases. The CDC announced its collaboration with Virginia health officials on Sept. 1. At the time, 70 people were sick.

Hepatitis A can cause yellow eyes or skin, abdominal pain or pale stools. It is a serious illness that affects the liver.

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