RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — There are now 28 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Virginia linked to Egyptian strawberries used by Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchises, and lawsuits are being filed.
The Virginia Department of Health traced the source of the hepatitis A virus to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt and consumed in July or early August. The department also confirmed that all potentially contaminated berries were pulled from the 96 Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia no later than Aug. 8 or Aug. 9.
There are more than 500 of the smoothie franchises across the country, and Virginia is not the only state affected. Two others have reported recent hepatitis A outbreaks among people exposed to products from a Tropical Smoothie Cafe, said VDH spokeswoman Marian Hunter. The CDC is working with those states to determine if the cases are related to Virginia's outbreak. Hunter did not identify the states.
The hepatitis A virus affects the liver, and symptoms can emerge relatively slowly, from 15 to 50 days after infection. They include yellowing of the skin or eyes, stomach and chest pain, fever and nausea.
That makes it crucial to provide timely alerts about possible outbreaks, because a vaccine or immune globulin must be administered within two weeks of exposure to be effective at preventing the disease, according to a release from the VDH.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe CEO Mike Rotondo issued a video apology on YouTube, and said "we voluntarily and immediately removed all of those strawberries from all of our cafes. We have sourced new strawberries for every location."
Some afflicted customers are seeking class-action status for their lawsuits against Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Their lawyers will be closely examining how quickly the company took action to stop the outbreak, said attorney William D. Marler of Seattle-based Marler Clark LLP, which specializes in food poisoning cases.
"We've been contacted by five people who are hepatitis A positive, and a dozen or so people got shots to try to prevent getting sick," Marler said.
Separately, Constantinos A. Raptis of Olney, Maryland, said he was hospitalized for four days after consuming smoothies from a Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurant in Purcellville. His lawsuit seeks $100,000.
Police detectives investigating a suspicious overnight death at a Chula Vista tattoo shop categorized the death as a homicide Monday morning, the Chula Vista Police Department reported.
Firefighters rescued an unconscious man from a car early Monday morning and at least two people were hospitalized following a head- on crash in Tierrasanta, police said.
Dry weather but cooler temperatures will continue Monday throughout San Diego County, though a slight chance of rain could be on the way for the middle of this week.
A small plane crashed and burned in an El Cajon parking lot shortly after takeoff Sunday, sending three people to a hospital.
A touching show of solidarity was on display Sunday as the body of fallen San Diego firefighter Cory Iverson returned to San Diego.
One person was killed and at least two others injured in a two-car crash on Old Highway 395 near Pala Mesa Resort on Sunday.
A driver's license and drunken driving checkpoint in Poway resulted in four arrests, sheriff's officials said Sunday.
Distraught doesn't begin to describe the family of Jermaine Barnes, a Mountain View man left with life-threatening brain injuries after he was hit by a car Friday night outside of his home.