Va. hepatitis A cases may be linked to smoothie stores

WASHINGTON — A group of hepatitis A cases in Virginia may be linked to imported strawberries used in smoothies at Tropical Smoothie Cafe stores.

The Virginia Department of Health said it believes frozen strawberries from Egypt may be to blame.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe said it has taken the strawberries out of all of its stores, and is using strawberries from other locations instead.

If you consumed a strawberry smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe between Aug. 5-8, you could still benefit from a vaccine or other treatment to help prevent the disease, the health department said.

After someone is exposed to the hepatitis A virus, which causes an inflammation of the liver, it can take 15-50 days to develop symptoms.

The department says there’s a chance other restaurants may have received the frozen Egyptian berries.

Anyone who’s eaten a strawberry smoothie in the last 50 days should watch for symptoms of hepatitis A, health officials said.

Symptoms include:

  • jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • light-colored stools

In a statement, Tropical Smoothie Cafe said its cafes and their food-handling practices “have not been implicated in any way,” saying it’s an issue only of the imported strawberries.

The company said it voluntarily pulled all strawberries sourced from Egypt from all of its store.

“Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and crew members and we will continue to cooperate with the health authorities,” the company said in its statement.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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