An outbreak of hepatitis A across the United States and Canada that is potentially linked to two brands of organic strawberries is being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The strawberries were branded as FreshKampo and HEB, and purchased between March 5 and April 25 at retailers, including Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Weis Market, and WinCo Foods, the FDA said.
Epidemiologic and traceback data show that the fresh organic strawberries under those brand names are a likely cause of illness in this outbreak, which is also being investigated by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
“The traceback investigations show that cases in California, Minnesota, and Canada report having purchased fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo or HEB prior to becoming ill. Illness onset dates range from March 28—April 30, 2022,” the FDA said.
FreshKampo and HEB strawberries purchased between those dates and frozen should not be consumed, according to the FDA. If individuals are unsure of what brand of strawberries they bought before freezing them, they are advised by health officials to throw them away.
“If consumers purchased fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo or HEB between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, ate those berries in the last two weeks, and have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A, they should immediately consult with their healthcare professional to determine whether post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is needed,” the FDA said.
Hepatitis A, a highly contagious virus that can cause acute liver disease, is spread when someone ingests the virus by eating contaminated food or water.
It can also be spread through close, personal contact with an infected person, such as sexual contact, caring for someone who is ill, or using drugs with others. Those at an increased risk of catching the virus include individuals with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The FDA notes that the virus can be spread by individuals before they even feel any symptoms.
Symptoms typically include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, jaundice, dark urine, and loss of appetite, although not everyone will display symptoms, according to health officials.
Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children, and they typically appear 2 to 7 weeks after infection and last less than two months. In chronic cases, symptoms can last up to six months.
A single shot of the hepatitis A vaccine may help prevent hepatitis A if given within 14 days of exposure, the CDC says.