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Local urgent care facilities see increase in symptoms that may be caused by hepatitis A

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Various urgent care offices in the Richmond-area say they have seen an increase in patients with symptoms that might be caused by hepatitis A.

A spokesperson for Patient First said “we have seen an increase in patients asking about hepatitis A, and symptoms that might be due to hepatitis A.”

Also, a woman who answered the phone at Richmond Urgent Care said they had just saw a patient who needed to be tested for hepatitis A.

Lauren Cunningham, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health, said the number of confirmed cases of Hepatitis A jumped over the weekend from 10 to 12.

“We don’t give out individual details, but we are hearing about some cases that may have occurred earlier in the summer since we sent out the news release on Friday,” Cunningham wrote in an email.

The VDH identified a possible link between frozen strawberries from Egypt that were used at Tropical Smoothie Cafés between August 5 and August 8, and hepatitis A.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

In a press release, the Virginia Department of Health said additional restaurants and suppliers could have been impacted.

“Other restaurants, and firms that supply restaurants, may also have received the frozen strawberries imported from Egypt,” they wrote. “VDH continues to investigate cases and work with state and federal partners, including the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to identify additional locations where the product may have been distributed.”

The VDH said they want anyone who consumed a smoothie with frozen strawberries at a restaurant within the last 50 days to watch out for symptoms of hepatitis A.

“Someone who is concerned about a possible hepatitis infection should see their physician,” Dr. Gregory Sturz with KidMed said. “Hepatitis A usually presents with fever, abdominal pain, fatigue and then a characteristic yellowing of the skin and eyes called jaundice.”

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Still, Sturz said if you get it, “Hepatitis A almost always gets better without any treatment, it’s really important if you have it to avoid things that stress the liver, such as alcohol or Tylenol.”

The CEO of Tropical Smoothie Café said the strawberries in question were voluntarily removed from all stores.

Megan McSeveney, a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said they have increased surveillance of imported berries.

Here is their full statement:

“Protecting public health is the FDA’s top priority. The FDA is working with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health to investigate this outbreak.  The FDA has initiated increased surveillance of imported berries and will provide more information as it becomes available.”