Hepatitis A Outbreak in 6 States Will Make You Rethink That Strawberry Smoothie

Scary news for smoothie addicts everywhere: An outbreak of hepatitis A responsible for making 55 people sick in six different states has been linked to frozen strawberries used in drinks served at the popular Tropical Smoothie Café restaurant chain. Over 20 people were hospitalized with the highly contagious viral liver infection, which is a pretty high price to pay for drinking one fruity frozen beverage. But does this mean you have to put your smoothie habit on hold?


You're most likely fine to keep on sipping, as infections linked to the strawberries, which were imported from Egypt, have only been reported in Virginia (where the outbreak apparently started), Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Plus, nearly everyone who got sick bought their smoothies from cafés in a specific area including Virginia and adjacent states (the one case in Oregon was someone who'd traveled to Virginia). Even more comforting (for people not in those states, of course) is the fact that Tropical Smoothie Café immediately removed the imported strawberries from all their stores after being notified of the outbreak by the Virginia Department of Health on August 5. They replaced them with new strawberries from a different supplier.

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Still, any time food safety is compromised to this degree it's pretty alarming -- and while you might expect to get sick from raw oysters or undercooked chicken, most of us don't typically think of a smoothie as something that might end up sending us to the ER. And while hepatitis A is treatable, at least (and doesn't cause chronic infection), it can still be pretty unpleasant: Symptoms include jaundice, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and fatigue. Hepatitis A also has a long incubation period (15 to 50 days before the onset of symptoms), which is why health authorities didn't officially make the connection to the strawberries until August, even though this recent outbreak started way back in May. 

More from CafeMom: 5 Ways to Tell It's Food Poisoning & Not a Stomach Bug

Then, of course, there's the disturbing and distinctly unappetizing way that hepatitis A is spread ... according to the CDC, the virus is most commonly transmitted when somebody eats something that was contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Ewwwwwwwwww. We'll just put hep A right up there with E. coli and Listeria at the top of our "NO THANKS" list.

On the bright side, cases of hepatitis A are dwindling in the country, with rates declining by 95 percent since the introduction of a vaccine in 1995. So your future smoothies are probably safe. To be honest, though, we're not feeling thirsty just yet!

Image via Anna Sedneva/Shutterstock

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