The number of people sickened in a Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen strawberries from Egypt served by Tropical Smoothie Cafe increased Friday to 35 as the timing of the public warning remain perplexing.
Virginia’s Department of Health issued a public warning August 19. However, the Health Department has not provided the date that the state received test results showing the victims are infected with the same strain of Hepatitis A isolated in strawberries from Egypt.
In a YouTube video posted last Sunday, Tropical Smoothie Cafe CEO Mike Rotondo apologized to customers and said the Virginia health department notified the chain August 5 about the possible link between the Egyptian strawberries and the outbreak. He said the chain immediately removed the frozen berries from all of its stores. He did not explain why he did not then alert the public of the risk of illness.
As of Friday, the lag time between August 5 when the restaurant chain was apparently notified and August 19 when the public warning was issued remains unexplained by the Virginia health department or Tropical Smoothie Cafe.
The timing is crucial because of the narrow window of opportunity for post-exposure vaccination. The post-exposure vaccine or immune globulin (IG) injections must be administered within 14 days of exposure or they are not effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia department.
This is going to get interesting.