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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Colorado’s Weld County Adds to the Hepatitis A Warning

Several states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of foodborne hepatitis A. Evidence indicates frozen strawberries imported from Egypt are the likely source of this outbreak. The recall affects all frozen strawberries and frozen strawberry products imported into the United States by the International Company for Agricultural Production & Processing (ICAPP) since January 1, 2016. The products were NOT offered for sale in retail stores such as grocery stores or food warehouses (e.g. Costco or Sam’s Club). The frozen strawberries were distributed to restaurants. Most of the outbreak-related human infections have occurred on the East coast. There are currently no hepatitis A cases in Colorado associated with this outbreak.

At this time, two establishments in Weld County served affected frozen strawberry products within the past 14 days:

  •  Fat Alberts restaurant (Greeley) served strawberries on top of dessert items, last served October 24, 2016.
  •  Red Rooster restaurant (Longmont) served strawberries on top of breakfast items, last served by October 28, 2016.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection that results from exposure to the hepatitis A virus. Illness from hepatitis A generally begins around 28 days after exposure (a range of 15–50 days) and symptoms include:

  •  Fatigue
  •  Stomach pain
  •  Yellowing of the skin and eye (jaundice)
  •  Dark urine
  •  Clay-colored stool

Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. In rare cases, the infection can lead to liver failure, particularly in individuals who have a pre-existing liver disease or weakened immune systems.

“If you have been exposed to hepatitis A, you can prevent infection by having a hepatitis A vaccine or immunoglobulin therapy within two weeks of exposure,” said Mark E. Wallace, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. “If it has been more than 14 days since you have eaten these berries, the vaccine won’t be effective in preventing infection.”

If you ate items containing strawberries from the above listed locations, contact your health care provider to discuss your options. Certain pharmacies also may offer hepatitis A vaccine. Visit vaccinefinder.org for locations near you. If you have been vaccinated for hepatitis A, you do not need to be vaccinated again, even if you ate the affected strawberries.

Vaccinations are also available at the Weld County Health Department main office (1555 North 17th Avenue, Greeley) and the Southwest Weld County Health Department satellite office (4209 County Road 241⁄2 Road, Longmont— I-25 and Hwy 119) during normal business hours. Call 970-400-2703 for an appointment.

For more information, Weld County residents may contact COHelp at 1-877-462-2911 or 303-389-1687. COHelp is available 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday – Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.