Hepatitis outbreak in US linked to infected strawberries as experts warn

An outbreak of hepatitis A in the United States and Canada may have been linked to organic strawberries. What could this mean for Britain?

Infected strawberries can be the cause of widespread cases of hepatitis in the US and Canada
Infected strawberries can be the cause of widespread cases of hepatitis in the US and Canada

Fresh strawberries could be the cause of the recent outbreak of hepatitis in children in the US, US health officials have warned.

The strawberries are now past their sell by date, but families may still be eating them or freezing them to enjoy later.

US stores that sold the organic berries included Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Walmart, among others. The batch in question was purchased between March 5th and April 25th and branded as FreshKampo.

So far, the outbreak has not been linked to ongoing hepatitis cases, which WHO says have infected 216 people in 37 US states.

A rise in hepatitis cases in the UK can be attributed to strawberries


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

17 people have fallen ill in the United States — 15 in California and one each in Minnesota and North Dakota, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Twelve of the sick were hospitalized.

In Canada, the strawberries were sold in Alberta and Saskatchewan between March 5th and 9th.

Ten cases and four hospitalizations were reported in both provinces, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Do Strawberries Increase Virus Spread?

Hepatitis A virus is a major contributor to foodborne outbreaks linked to the consumption of contaminated frozen foods.

According to experts, these viruses are transmitted via the fecal-oral route.

It has been shown that one milligram of feces from infected individuals can contain 106 to 108 genome copies of hepatitis or norovirus.

Therefore, contamination of berries with microscopic amounts of infected feces can cause outbreaks and disease.

Infected strawberries in parts of the US and Canada could be linked to rising hepatitis cases


(Getty Images)

Berries are a common channel for viruses.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that frozen fruit has been a major carrier of foodborne illnesses, primarily norovirus and hepatitis A infections, over the past decade.

The results of the study showed that frozen fruit, especially berries, contributed to most outbreaks.

The virus is usually transmitted via the fecal-oral route, meaning a person ingests somehow contaminated feces from an infected person.

If workers didn’t wash their hands properly after using the toilet, they could transmit the virus to the fruit.

Another way strawberries can be contaminated is if the water used to irrigate them is contaminated with raw sewage, which can transmit the virus.

The recent hepatitis outbreak in the UK is mainly attributed to adenovirus and other possible contributors such as Covid-19.

The common viruses that cause infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected in the UK, the UKHSA says.

Nonetheless, “we are working with other countries that are also seeing new cases to share information and learn more about these infections,” said Dr. Renu Bindra, Senior Medical Advisor and Incident Director at UKHSA, in May 2022.

In the UK, the cause of recent hepatitis cases is not linked to strawberries


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Meanwhile, US shoppers are being urged to throw out certain strawberries bought in March and April to reduce their risk of infection.

“Epidemiological and traceability data indicate that fresh, organic strawberries sold as FreshKampo and HEB brands and purchased between March 5, 2022 and April 25, 2022 are a likely cause of disease in this outbreak,” says the US American Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Disease onset dates range from March 28 to April 30, 2022.

“If you’re not sure what brand you bought, when you bought your strawberries, or where you bought them before freezing, the strawberries should be thrown away.

“As this investigation is ongoing, additional products could be included.

“More information will be provided in this advisory as it becomes available.”

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Fry Electronics Team

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