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Organic Strawberries Linked to Hepatitis in U.S.

Featured, Health, National

Close up of fresh-picked strawberries. | Image by Gerry Broome, AP

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U.S. public health officials have disclosed that they are investigating a hepatitis A outbreak in Canada and the United States.

Health officials disclosed that the outbreak could have originated from fresh organic strawberries, branded as H-E-B and FreshKampo, that people bought between March 5 and April 25.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said these strawberries were sold at various stores, including H-E-B, Aldi, Safeway, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Farmers Market, Weis Market, and Walmart.

While these strawberries are currently past their shelf life, anyone who may have purchased them between March 5 and April 25 is advised by health officials to throw them away; this includes anyone who froze the strawberries for later use.

How Serious Is the Matter?

The Food and Drug Administration announced that it had linked 17 hepatitis A cases to strawberries in the U.S. Among these, 15 are from California, while the others are from North Dakota and Minnesota. The agency also confirmed that 12 of those people have been hospitalized.

Health officials in Canada have confirmed 10 cases. Of these, four are from Alberta, and the other six are from Saskatchewan. Four Canadian victims have been hospitalized. Neither the United States nor Canada has reported any fatalities.

What Is Hepatitis A and Is It Dangerous?

Hepatitis A is a contagious disease that manifests as an inflammation of the liver. It can progress to cause liver disease. Depending on the victim’s immunity and overall health, hepatitis A may either cause mild or severe illness.

Hepatitis A is transmitted through ingesting contaminated water and food or by making direct contact with an infectious person. You can get infected after eating food that was not handled properly, especially if the handler did not follow proper hand-washing hygiene.

While almost everyone who gets infected with hepatitis A can fully recover with lifelong immunity, a small percentage of those infected can die from the disease.

What Is the FDA Recommendation?

The FDA officials advise that restaurants, consumers, and retailers refrain from selling, eating, or serving any fresh organic strawberries that are branded as H-E-B or FreshKampo if they were bought between March 5 and April 25, 2022.

Those who bought and preserved these strawberries are advised to discard them. The same should be done by anyone who is not sure of the brand they bought, when they bought them, or where they got them from before freezing the strawberries.

They also advise anyone who bought fresh organic strawberries from H-E-B and FreshKampo brands between those dates, consumed them in the last two weeks, and is not vaccinated against hepatitis A to consult their physician to determine whether post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is necessary.

Any unvaccinated person is advised to take PEP within two weeks of exposure to the hepatitis A virus. Vaccination can help prevent hepatitis A infection if taken within 14 days of exposure. Anyone vaccinated against hepatitis A or who has had hepatitis A in the past does not need PEP.    

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