Posted by Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner.
In follow up to our
earlier post regarding the link between a Hepatitis A outbreak and frozen strawberries
served at Tropical Smoothie Cafes in Virginia, continuing CDC investigations
have now confirmed that the Hepatitis A infections are more-widely spread,
now including Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin as well as
Virginia, where a majority of the cases exist. To date, a total of 51
victims have been identified.
Multiple challenges to the investigation include the long incubation period
for Hepatitis A (15 to 50 days) and the two-week delay by the
Virginia Department of Health in notifying the public of the initial outbreak. As a result, the normal
fourteen-day window for successful post-exposure vaccination was eliminated
for many potential victims.
Virginia health department officials, the delayed announcement was due to their efforts to gather as much data
as possible to determine the extent of the public risk and communicate
it with scientific certainty.
One official noted that since smoothies contain so many ingredients, it
was important to confirm that the frozen strawberries were the source
of the contamination. In order to do so, the health department had to
confirm what states were affected, what restaurant chains or other sources
used the product, and where the strawberries were distributed. The official
stated that it was critical to have a high level of confidence in the
accuracy of this information before releasing a statewide notice about
a single product.
According to the CDC spokesperson, “CDC, FDA and several states are
currently investigating an outbreak of foodborne Hepatitis A linked to
frozen strawberries in smoothies served in restaurants. While Tropical
Smoothie Café has removed the frozen strawberries from their restaurants
and switched to another supplier, we may still see more illnesses due
to the long incubation period for Hepatitis A before people start experiencing
symptoms. At this time, we do not have information to suggest that there
is an ongoing risk of hepatitis A virus infection at Tropical Smoothie
However, the Virginia Department of Health's information is somewhat
different than the CDC notification. VDH and CDC are working to resolve
the confusing information and update the VDH website. In the meantime,
consumers who have had a smoothie at any restaurant in recent weeks to
monitor themselves for Hepatitis A symptoms for at least 50 days afterwards.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, symptoms of Hepatitis A include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stools
- Loss of appetite
Hepatitis A can be spread through direct contact with an infected person
or by eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages. The health department
advises frequent handwashing with warm water and soap before preparing
food, after using the bathroom, and after changing diapers in order to
help prevent transmission of the virus. If you suspect you have Hepatitis
A, the health department advises that you stay home from work, especially
if you work in a restaurant.
My firm has filed class-action lawsuits and complaints on behalf of injured
people related to this outbreak.
If you have questions about this litigation, please
Do you have any questions about this post? If so, please email Mr. Zambri:
About the author:
Mr. Zambri is the author of a widely renowned book on product liability
litigation. His experience and knowledge regarding personal injury is
often sought by other lawyers and he regularly speaks at seminars regarding
personal injury litigation. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one
of "The Best Lawyers in America" by
Best Lawyers (2016 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by
Super Lawyer magazine (2016) - national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.