Can you really get Hepatitis A from a smoothie?

Recent reports from officials in Virginia have disclosed that at least 23 cases of Hepatitis A have been reported, all linked to the frozen strawberries used by Tropical Smoothie Cafes.

The Virginia Department of Health have confirmed the cases, and four cases have come from Central Virginia. Seven of the cases were in northern Virginia and another four are from the northwestern area of Virginia. Another eight cases were from the eastern area of the state, NBC12 reported.

The health department stated that the frozen strawberries, which were imported from Egypt, were to blame for the illnesses.

Although some might wonder if the virus can be transmitted from frozen foods, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that Hepatitis A can be “spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus. (This can include frozen or undercooked foods).”

The virus is a contagious liver disease that comes from the Hepatitis A virus. So how can you get Hepatitis A from contaminated food or drink?  Here are some quick facts about food/drink and how the virus is transmitted.

  • The virus is normally spread when objects, food and beverages contaminated with the feces from a carrier of the virus comes into contact with the mouth.
  • The virus can withstand extreme cold, so frozen foods can still be responsible for spreading the illness. The Hepatitis Virus can be killed with high temperatures, like boiling or cooking food or liquid for at least one minute at 185-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hepatitis A is more likely to occur in countries where poor sanitary conditions persist.
  • The foods most likely to be contaminated with the virus are vegetables, fruit, ice, shellfish and water.

Since the outbreak, the Virginia smoothie chain has ceased using the strawberries in all of its stores.

People who ate the smoothies at a Tropical Smoothie Café location over the dates of August 5 through August 8 should receive the vaccine or immune globulin (a substance from human blood plasma that carries antibodies) to prevent the virus.