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FDA Links Hepatitis A Outbreak In US, Canada To Strawberries

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The US Food and Drug Administration or FDA said on Wednesday that packages of certain brands of strawberries are most likely linked to more than a dozen recent hepatitis A cases in California.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and state and local partners, are looking into a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A infections in the U.S. and
Canada. This outbreak is mostly linked to fresh, organic strawberries with the FreshKampo or HEB labels and purchased between March 5 and April 25 this year.

The FDA said in a statement on the issue, "If you are unsure of what brand you purchased, when you purchased your strawberries or where you purchased them from prior to freezing them, the strawberries should be thrown away."

The strawberries were also sold at stores like HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers, Trader Joe's, Weis Markets and WinCo Foods, regulators said. The FDA has received reports of 17 hepatitis A cases in the US since the strawberries hit stored, and a dozen people have been hospitalized. Most of the cases have been in California, but one case has been reported in both Minnesota and North Dakota.

In Canada, 10 cases of hepatitis A and four hospitalizations have been reported tied to the strawberries, as per reports.

The FDA said in its statement, "No deaths have been reported, but anyone who consumes the potentially harmful strawberries should immediately see a doctor and ask about a hepatitis vaccine."

Hepatitis A is a contagious yet treatable virus that infects the liver, causing it to swell and malfunction. Most people catch the virus from contaminated food or water.
HEB said it has not received or sold the strawberries under investigation since April 16. The Texas-based grocer maintained that its strawberries are safe, but said customers should throw away any organic strawberries purchased between March 5 and April 25.

FreshKampo, a Mexico-based grower and distributor of fruits and vegetables, said it has stopped distributing the strawberries that are under investigation. None of the company's other products have been added to the FDA's probe.

The U.S. faced a similar food-related hepatitis A outbreak in the year 2016 when Hawaii health officials closed two sushi restaurants were serving raw scallops, which came from the Philippines. The state had reported around 290 confirmed cases of hepatitis A resulting in 74 hospitalizations.

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