Canadian health agencies are investigating a hepatitis A outbreak in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The likely source: strawberries.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) issued a notice Friday saying many of the people who were ill reported having eaten imported, fresh organic strawberries prior to feeling sick.
These specific berries were sold between March 5-9, 2022, at Co-op stores in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Officials say people between 10 and 75 years of age became ill between early and mid-April 2022.
Four people have been treated in hospital. No deaths have been reported.
PHAC is working with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to investigate the outbreak. There are currently no related food recalls.
Anyone who suspects they might have been exposed to these organic strawberries or have symptoms of a hepatitis A infection should see a health-care provider immediately.
Officials say vaccination can prevent a hepatitis A infection if given within 14 days of exposure.
Check the freezer
While the affected strawberries are no longer being sold in Canada, people are being asked to check their freezers.
If the back-dated berries are being stored on ice, throw them out immediately. If its unclear where the strawberries are from, also throw them out.
PHAC suggests people wash their hands before and after preparing or eating food, and after using the washroom or changing diapers.
Anyone diagnosed with hepatitis A should not prepare or serve food and drinks to others.
Public health officials also advise washing and sanitizing any drawers, shelves or containers where the products were stored using a kitchen sanitizer.
People can also prepare a bleach solution — in a labelled spray bottle using a ratio of five millilitres of household bleach to 750 ml of water — and rinse with water.
What to watch for
According to PHAC, most people will recover fully from a hepatitis A infection, but the risk of serious complications increases with age and in those with underlying liver disease.
Additionally, not everyone who is infected will show symptoms. Adults are more likely than children to experience signs of the virus, which include:
- Dark urine.
- Loss of appetite.
- Fatigue (tiredness).
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Stomach cramps or abdominal pain.
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
Symptoms typically appear 14 to 28 days after exposure, but can also show up to 50 days later.
Officials say symptoms can last less than two months, with mild cases lasting one to two weeks. Symptoms in severe cases can last up to nine months.