Tropical Smoothie Café faces two lawsuits in Virginia filed in connection with a hepatitis A outbreak linked to Egyptian strawberries, including one potential class-action that includes scores of plaintiffs who have had a smoothie at one of the chain’s Virginia cafes before Aug 8.
Using genetic testing, Virginia Department of Health officials were able to identify the hepatitis A strain as one that has been associated with past outbreaks stemming from frozen strawberries imported from Egypt. Further research led the health officials to discover certain Tropical Smoothie Café chains used such strawberries in many of their blended drinks.
The smoothie chain voluntarily withdrew the strawberries from its inventory between Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, replacing them with strawberries from California and Mexico. Thirty-five hepatitis A cases have been reported, all in Virginia.
Laura Pyka, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in York County Circuit Court, seeks compensation for the cost of the vaccine and legal fees. The lawsuit claims that she drank smoothies at a Yorktown Tropical Smoothie location in July and August and received a post-exposure vaccination for hepatitis A to stop a potential infection.
Lawyers in Ms. Pyka’s case seek class-action status for the suit to include any other Tropical Smoothie Café patrons who received a hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, hardy virus that affects the liver. Symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop 15 50 days after exposure and include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and fever. Some people may also experience joint or muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, dark urine, itching, weight loss, or yellow skin and eyes.
The disease usually goes away on its own without causing serious complications, but it could cause liver failure in some patients, particularly in people with other liver disease and those older than 60.
The other lawsuit was filed in Loudoun County Circuit Court by Constantinos Raptis, who drank smoothies at a Purcellville, Va., Tropical Smoothie Café in early August and developed hepatitis A symptoms Aug. 15.
The complaint says that Mr. Raptis was hospitalized for four days in August as a result of the infection. He seeks $100,000 for his costs.
Another, unrelated outbreak of hepatitis A in Hawaii has prompted a class-action suit against a chain of sushi restaurants that used frozen scallops imported from the Philippines found to be contaminated with the virus. At least 228 people have been sickened with hepatitis A in connection statewide, making it Hawaii’s largest ever hepatitis A outbreak. Hawaii health officials expect the number of infected people will continue to grow in the weeks ahead.