Healthcare

US, Canada investigating strawberries linked to hepatitis A outbreak

Several health agencies in the United States and Canada are investigating a hepatitis A outbreak potentially connected to organic strawberries purchased in March and April. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers against eating strawberry brands FreshKampo and HEB, sold at major grocery stores including Aldi, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and other major chains.

“Epidemiologic and traceback data show that fresh organic strawberries sold as FreshKampo and HEB brands that were purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, are a likely cause of illness in this outbreak,“ the agency said.

The FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, along with state and local partners, are investigating the infections, according to an announcement

Hepatitis A cases reported in California, Minnesota and Canada were traced back to people who purchased the organic strawberry brands, the FDA said.

A total of 17 cases were reported in the U.S., including 15 in California, one in Minnesota and one in North Dakota, and 12 hospitalizations. The last illness onset was reported on April 30.

While the strawberries are now past their shelf life, the FDA warned that people who may have frozen the fruit should throw them away. The agency also encouraged people to contact their healthcare provider if they think they have symptoms of a hepatitis A infection.

Those symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and other ailments and typically occur after someone eats or drinks contaminated food or water. 

The strawberry-related outbreak comes amid a global pediatric hepatitis outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday said that 650 pediatric cases of severe hepatitis have been reported in 33 countries between April 5 and May 26. 

The CDC has issued new guidance about testing for adenovirus in children as a possible reason for pediatric outbreak, but it remains unclear if the two are linked.

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