How Strawberries cause Hepatitis A Infection? Outbreak Explained

Hepatitis A epidemic in multiple states linked to frozen strawberries. Let’s see how Strawberries cause Hepatitis A Infection.

What is Hepatitis A

This outbreak appears to be coming to an end. In the United States, however, viral hepatitis is still a major source of human sickness. The CDC Viral Hepatitis webpage has further information about viral hepatitis and steps people can take to lower their risk of infection.

A multistate outbreak of foodborne hepatitis A has been investigated by several states, the CDC, and the US Food and Drug Administration external icon (FDA). Hepatitis A is a contagious liver illness caused by the hepatitis A viral infection. It can range in severity from a little disease that lasts a few weeks to a serious condition that lasts months. Hepatitis A infection has resulted in the death of certain persons, even though this is an uncommon occurrence.

How Strawberries cause Hepatitis A Infection

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an outbreak of hepatitis A related to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt has sickened nearly 90 people in seven states.

According to Benjamin Chapman, a food-safety specialist and associate professor at North Carolina State University, berries of all kinds are a common vector for viruses. Several virus outbreaks have been linked to imported berries in the last decade, he said.

One reason for this is that berries are delicate, and unlike other, more hardy fruits and vegetables, they must be gathered by hand, according to Chapman.

Tomatoes, for example, are harvested by machine, so no human hands are involved, he explained. However, because berries are too delicate for machines, each berry is chosen, he explained.

Because hepatitis A is transmitted by the “fecal-to-oral channel,” Chapman explained that if fruit pickers were infected with the virus and had not properly cleansed their hands, the virus might be transferred from their hands to the berry. This is undoubtedly a risk in places of the world where hepatitis A is more prevalent, he warned.

The water used to irrigate the strawberries, on the other hand, is more likely to be the source of the virus in this outbreak, according to Chapman. And, sure, sewage-contaminated water is included because of the fecal-to-oral pathway.

According to Chapman, berries are frequently irrigated just before harvesting to boost the weight of the fruits. He said that this can be accomplished through drip irrigation, in which water is given at the base of the plant and directly to the roots, or overhead irrigation, in which water is sprayed on the plants from above.

That water comes into direct contact with the berries in overhead irrigation. Hepatitis A virus can settle straight on the fruit if the water is infected, according to Chapman.

And, according to Chapman, once the fruit has been affected, the virus is unlikely to wash out. He claims that berries aren’t washed as often as other fruits because they’re more delicate. They may be only lightly used. They may be briefly sprayed or misted before being frozen, but he believes it won’t be enough to kill the virus. He also pointed out that berries have a lot of nooks and crannies on their surfaces where viruses could hide.

The final step, freezing the berries, simply serves to preserve the virus even more, according to Chapman. People are less likely to cook frozen berries before eating them because they are presented as “ready to eat,” he added. He stated that this is especially likely if the berries are combined to make a smoothie, as was the case in the current outbreak.

Hepatitis A Prevention in General

The FDA, in collaboration with the CDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as well as state and local partners, is investigating a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A infections in the United States and Canada that may be linked to fresh organic strawberries sold under the FreshKampo and HEB brands and purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022.

The potentially affected FreshKampo and HEB products are currently out of date. People who bought fresh organic strawberries from FreshKampo and HEB between March 5 and April 25, 2022, and then froze them for later consumption should not consume them.

If you don’t know what brand of strawberries you bought when you bought them, or where you bought them before freezing them, toss them out.

Fresh organic strawberries sold as FreshKampo and HEB brands and purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, are a plausible source of sickness in this outbreak, according to epidemiologic and traceback data.

Cases in California, Minnesota, and Canada have reported purchasing fresh organic strawberries labeled as FreshKampo or HEB before becoming ill, according to the traceback investigations. The beginning of the illness will occur between March 28 and April 30, 2022. Additional goods may be added as the study continues. As more information becomes available, it will be included in this notice.

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