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Strawberries may be linked to hepatitis A outbreaks in the US and Canada

Strawberry Fresh organic is sold under the FreshKampo and HEB brands in the US and Canada. The product was available at many stores of various retail chains across the US, including Aldi, Kroger, Safeway, Walmart and Trader Joe’s, from March 5 to April 25.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in this country, 17 people have been infected with the disease Hepatitis A, of which 15 people in California, Minnesota and North Dakota recorded one patient each; 12 of those who got sick had to be hospitalized for treatment.

In Canada, strawberries were sold in Alberta and Saskatchewan from March 5 to March 9.

According to the Food Inspectorate and Public Health Agency of Canada, 10 cases of illness and four hospitalizations have been reported in both provinces.

FreshKampo, a strawberry grower based in Mexico, said it was working with regulators to find the source of the problem.

According to science news website Live Science, the berries are a common conduit for viruses, because they are so fragile that they can only be harvested by hand.

Hepatitis A virus is usually transmitted through excretion or ingestion. If workers do not wash their hands properly after using the toilet, they can transmit the virus to the fruit. This possibility is more at risk in parts of the world where hepatitis A is more common.

Strawberries may be linked to hepatitis A outbreaks in the US and Canada - Photo 1.

Several states in the US and Canada have been affected by the hepatitis A outbreak. (Image: AP)

On the other hand, strawberries can become contaminated if the water used to irrigate them is contaminated (untreated or untreated wastewater can carry viruses).

Viruses can’t be washed off easily because there are nooks and crannies on the surface of strawberries where viruses can hide.

FreshKampo said that potentially affected strawberries were labeled “Product of Mexico” or “Distributed by Meridien Foods”.

HEB, a supermarket chain in Texas, said it has not received or sold the strawberries from its supplier FreshKampo since April 16. The retailer said that any customers who still have the aforementioned strawberries should throw them away or return them to the store where they bought them.

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that can cause liver disease and, in rare cases, liver failure and death. The incubation period is 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice.

The FDA said that consumers who have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A and have eaten potentially affected berries in the past two weeks should see their doctor immediately.

Although strawberries have not been on the market for a long time, people are advised to check any strawberries that have been frozen for later use.

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