Currently, across the United States, many people are suffering from two different hepatitis outbreak issues. While one of them has known origins, the other remains a mystery.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, and the most common affecting the US are hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A comes from the contamination of food, surfaces, drinks, or other objects that have even the smallest microscopic amounts of infected fecal matter. Hepatitis B is spread through human fluids, blood, and semen, for example, and can be transmitted via sexual activity, sharing blood-infected equipment, or during birth. And Hepatitis C is transmitted from person to person when infected blood gets into someone else’s body.
The first outbreak to be discussed is that regarding the hepatitis A outbreak that has been linked to contaminated fresh, organic strawberries. According to CNN, “seventeen hepatitis cases have been identified in California, Minnesota and North Dakota, which have led to 12 hospitalizations.” The majority of these cases have been linked to the purchase of strawberries. It’s been reported that these strawberries have the label of HEB or FreshKampo and were distributed to stores across the country. Some of the stores noted were HEB, Aldi, Kroger, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts Farmers Market, Walmart, Weis Markets, and WinCo Foods.
All reported cases are linked to strawberries purchased back in March, specifically March 5 – April 25; however, the current concern is for those who may have frozen the berries and will unknowingly still eat them.
The other outbreak currently affecting the US is also linked back to April; however, it is one affecting children. According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, more than 700 possible hepatitis cases affecting children have been reported across 34 countries. Some of these cases have led to death and have required liver transplants.
The worst part about this outbreak is that it’s a mystery. It is still unclear what is causing the outbreak and where it originated from, although there may be some link to other viruses, including past COVID-19 infections. However, all research is still ongoing and nothing yet has been concluded.
The best way to stay protected is to practice good hygiene and to watch for related symptoms like fever, fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, and changes in stool or urine. Jaundice in children is a major sign to look out for, as the liver plays a key role in preventing this. Always contact a health care professional if symptoms are worrisome.