A food worker at a Jamba Juice restaurant recently tested positive for hepatitis A, and KCBS out of San Jose, California, reported that the same worker prepared smoothies at the National Gymnastics Championships in August.  According to the report:

The female worker, who is now recovering from her infection, used good hygiene and food safety practices while preparing the smoothies so the chance of anyone who had a smoothie at the championships or the concurrent trade show is remote, Alexiou said.

Smoothies prepared by the infected worker were distributed at the JumpSport booth at the trade show on August 16th and 17th.

There have been no reports of additional Hepatitis A infections since the initial announcement about Jamba Juice last week.

Hepatitis A is a communicable (or contagious) disease that spreads from person to person. It is transmitted by the “fecal – oral route,” generally from person-to-person, or via contaminated food or water. Outbreaks associated with food have been increasingly implicated as a significant source of Hepatitis A infection. Such “outbreaks are usually associated with contamination of food during preparation by an HAV-infected food handler.” (Francis & Maynard, 1983; CDC, 2007)

Food contaminated with the virus is a common vehicle transmitting Hepatitis A. The food preparer or cook is the individual most often contaminating the food.  He or she is generally not ill: the peak time of infectivity (i.e., when the most virus is present in the stool of an infectious individual) is during the 2 weeks before illness begins. Indeed, “viral gastroenteritis was reported as the most common food-borne illness in Minnesota from 1984 to 1991, predominantly associated with poor personal hygiene of infected food handlers.” (Jaykus, 1997)

In addition to infected food workers, fresh produce contaminated during cultivation, harvesting, processing, and distribution has also been a source of hepatitis A. (Fiore, 2004) In 1997, frozen strawberries were determined to be the source of a hepatitis A outbreak in five states. (Hutin, 1999) In 2003, fresh green onions were identified as the source of a hepatitis A outbreak traced to consumption of food at a Pennsylvania restaurant. (Wheeler, 2005)