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We have another Strawberry outbreak. CDC, state public health and regulatory officials, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to frozen organic strawberries imported from certain farms located in Baja California, Mexico, by a common supplier. Frozen organic strawberries may be sold to a variety of retailers under multiple brand labels. Traceback and epidemiological investigations show that people with outbreak-associated cases in Washington purchased the same retail brand of frozen organic strawberries prior to becoming ill. Here is everything we know about the Hepatitis A Strawberry Outbreak:
As of March 13, 2023, a total of 5 outbreak-associated cases of hepatitis A have been reported from 1 state.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from November 24, 2022, to December 27, 2022. Ill people range in age from 38 to 61 years, with a median age of 52 years. Forty percent of ill people are female. Of 5 people with available information, 2 (40%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. Symptoms include: loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown colored urine, and light-colored stools. The most notable symptom is yellowing of the skin or eyes. People can become sick up to seven weeks after exposure.
The virus usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetectable amounts of stool from an infected person. This is spread when an infected person does not wash their hands effectively after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that could increase the risk of infection.
Once infected, relapse symptoms are likely. These relapses can continue for as long as 6 months. Fatality rates are low for this virus at 0.3% (increased to 1.8% for those over 50 years). Underlying chronic liver disease is a whole other story. This particular condition increases the risk of death.
Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicate that frozen organic strawberries, imported fresh from certain farms located in Baja California, Mexico in 2022, are the likely source of this outbreak. The hepatitis A virus strain causing illnesses in this outbreak is genetically identical to the strain that caused a foodborne hepatitis A outbreak in 2022, which was linked to fresh organic strawberries imported from Baja California, Mexico, and sold at various retailers.
In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the 2 to 7 weeks before they became ill. Of people who were interviewed, all of them reported eating frozen organic strawberries. This proportion was significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 24% reported eating frozen berries in the week before they were interviewed.
In response to this investigation, California Splendor, Inc. of San Diego, California voluntarily recalled certain lots of 4-lb. bags of Kirkland Signature Frozen Organic Whole Strawberries that were sold at Costco stores in Los Angeles, California; Hawaii; and two San Diego, California business centers. The lots subject to this recall include: 140962-08, 142222-23, 142792-54, 142862-57, 142912-59, 142162-20, 142202-21, 142782-53, 142852-56, 142902-58, 142212-22, 142232-24, 142842-55.
In response to this investigation, Scenic Fruit Company of Gresham, Oregon voluntarily recalled frozen organic strawberries, sold to Costco, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, KeHE, Vital Choice Seafood, and PCC Community Markets in certain states. Products subject to this recall can be found here and here. Pictures of the products can be found here.
How Does Hepatitis A Get Transmitted Through Food?
Transmission of hepatitis A occurs by what is known as fecal-oral route, often by direct contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water. In other words, by infected poop. Microscopic and invisible traces of fecal mater are enough to transmit the virus and infect an unknowing host.
Some countries have a problem with hepatitis A contaminated with water. The United States doesn’t have this problem. In fact, most transmission is a result of food handler contamination. Many times the person spreading the virus does not even though that they have it. It takes a little bit of time for symptoms to appear.
Children, though not likely to be a food handler, often show no signs of symptoms. Less than 10% of children under 6 years show jaundice. Around 76 to 97% of young adults have symptoms and only around 40 to 70% are jaundiced.
If you have any questions about potential exposure to hepatitis A, call your health professional or your local or state health department. If you were recently exposed to hepatitis A virus and have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A, you might benefit from an injection of either hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin. However, the vaccine or immune globulin are only effective if given within the first 2 weeks after exposure. A health professional can decide what is best based on your age and overall health.
Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water. When corporations cause Hepatitis food poisoning outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable. The Lange Law Firm is one of the only law firms in the nation focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits.
If you got Hepatitis A from frozen strawberries and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we can help. Our Hepatitis lawyer can help you pursue compensation for your Hepatitis A infection. Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.