Hepatitis A Symptoms as FDA Probes Outbreak Possibly Linked to Strawberries

An outbreak of hepatitis A infections in several U.S. states and Canada potentially linked to fresh organic strawberries from the FreshKampo and HEB brands is under investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as health authorities in Canada.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, short-term liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus, which is among the most common types of the illness.

The FDA stated on May 28: "Epidemiologic and traceback data show that fresh organic strawberries sold as FreshKampo and HEB brands that were purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, are a likely cause of illness in this outbreak."

As of May 28, 17 cases had been reported in the U.S. (15 in California and one each in Minnesota and North Dakota), and they resulted in 12 hospitalizations, according to the FDA.

The FDA investigation is ongoing and Americans are advised not to eat, serve or sell FreshKampo or HEB brand organic strawberries purchased between the aforementioned dates, the federal health body said.

While the potentially affected FreshKampo and HEB products are clearly past their shelf life, those who purchased the products between March 5 and April 25 and then froze the strawberries for later consumption should not eat them, the FDA added.

Below are some of the retailers where the potentially affected strawberries were sold:

  • Aldi
  • HEB
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Trader Joe's
  • Walmart
  • Weis Markets
  • WinCo Foods

See the FDA website for full details on the latest outbreak.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Most hepatitis A infections are from unknown causes or from close contact with an infected individual. But some infections can be caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, says the FDA.

Foodborne diseases caused by hepatitis A are not common in the U.S. However, fruit (berries) as well as water, shellfish, raw vegetables and salads are most frequently named as potential foodborne sources, says the FDA.

Symptoms of hepatitis A, which typically appear two to seven weeks following infection, can include the following, as outlined by the CDC.

  • Yellow skin or eyes.
  • Not wanting to eat.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Throwing up.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Fever.
  • Dark urine or light-colored stool.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Joint pain.
  • Feeling tired.

Many people with hepatitis A, especially children, have no symptoms but they can still spread the infection. A person can spread the virus to others up to two weeks before symptoms present, the CDC says.

Those who think they've developed symptoms of hepatitis A or have been exposed to the virus are advised to contact their healthcare provider or local health authority as soon as possible, ideally within two weeks, advises the CDC.

Hepatitis A Treatment and Recovery

Doctors typically recommend rest, healthy food and drinking fluids to treat the symptoms of hepatitis A. Some patients with severe symptoms may require hospital care.

Hepatitis A can take the form of a mild illness over a few weeks, but it can also be severe and last several months. Symptoms typically last less than two months, but some patients can be ill for up to six months, the CDC says.

In rare cases, especially those who have a pre-existing health condition or weakened immune systems, hepatitis A can lead to liver failure and death, the FDA warns. That's "more common in older people and in people with other serious health issues, such as chronic liver disease," the CDC says.

Most hepatitis A patients fully recover within a week or two, but in rare instances, the condition may become chronic and cause relapsing infection.

The best way to prevent an infection is by getting the hepatitis A vaccine, according to the CDC. The vaccine is given as two shots, six months apart.

See the websites of the CDC and FDA for more information about hepatitis A.

A person holding box of strawberries.
A person holding a box of strawberries at a farmers' market in Monterey Park, California, in July 2014. Authorities in the U.S. and Canada are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis B infections potentially linked to fresh organic strawberries from the FreshKampo and HEB brands, including 15 cases reported in California. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images