UPDATE: FDA seeks Egypt's help on strawberry hepatitis outbreak

FDA and Egyptian officials are working together on an investigation into a Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen strawberries from Egypt that were served in smoothies.

As of today, 2nd September, 74 people in seven states have been confirmed through laboratory testing to be infected with the outbreak strain. Federal officials report that symptoms of at least 32 of the victims were so severe they required hospitalization. They expect additional people to be stricken because of the 15- to 50-day incubation time for Hepatitis A.

“The FDA’s investigation into the source and distribution of the strawberries is ongoing; and the agency has been in touch with the Egyptian International Health Regulations National Focal Point to discuss the investigation,” according to a notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s website this afternoon.

“FDA is working to identify other parts of the relevant supply chain and will take appropriate action as necessary. However, FDA is prohibited by law in most situations from releasing publicly certain confidential commercial information about supply chains. The FDA has initiated increased surveillance of imported strawberries and will provide more information as it becomes available.”

CDC leads epidemiological investigation
Today CDC posted its initial report on the outbreak — which included Virginia’s count of 55 from Wednesday — reporting 70 people from seven states are infected. The states and number of confirmed victims are: Maryland, 6; New York, 1; North Carolina, 1; Oregon, 1; Virginia, 55 (Wednesday’s count); West Virginia, 5, and Wisconsin, 1.

Although FDA did not reference any testing of the imported, frozen strawberries in its outbreak post today, CDC reported the other agency is waiting on lab results. A CDC spokeswoman said earlier this week that CDC does not test food samples. That’s the responsibility of FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, depending on the food item involved.

Both CDC and FDA reported there is no information to suggest there is an ongoing risk of Hepatitis A infection at Tropical Smoothie Cafés. Neither agency has any information suggesting any other restaurants or retailers received the implicated frozen strawberries from Egypt, according to their reports today.


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