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Hepatitis A Outbreak in U.S. and Canada Linked to Strawberries

Public health officials said they were investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A in the United States and Canada that is potentially linked to organic strawberries.

American health officials said the outbreak most likely came from fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo and H-E-B that were bought between March 5 and April 25.

The strawberries were sold at stores including Aldi, H-E-B, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Weis Markets, the Food and Drug Administration said.

The strawberries are now past their shelf life, and people who bought them between March 5 and April 25 should throw them out, even if they froze them to eat later, health officials said.

In the United States, the F.D.A. said it had identified 17 cases of hepatitis A linked to the strawberries — 15 in California and one each in Minnesota and North Dakota. Twelve people have been hospitalized, the agency said.

In Canada, health officials said they had confirmed 10 cases — four in Alberta and six in Saskatchewan. Four people have been hospitalized in that country.

No deaths linked to the strawberries have been reported in the United States or Canada, according to officials in both countries.

Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that may cause liver disease. It can be transmitted when food is consumed after it was handled by someone who did not follow proper hand-washing hygiene, the F.D.A. said.

Symptoms usually develop 15 to 20 days after eating the contaminated food and can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine and pale stool, the F.D.A. said.

People who believe they may be infected or may have eaten the tainted strawberries in the last two weeks should talk to their health care provider, the F.D.A. said.

In a statement, H-E-B, which is based in Texas, said that it had not received or sold organic strawberries from the supplier under investigation since April 16.

“All strawberries sold at H-E-B are safe,” the company said. “No illnesses from strawberries related to the F.D.A. investigation have been reported at H-E-B or in Texas.”

FreshKampo said it was no longer shipping fresh organic strawberries linked to the outbreak. Those that were sold between March 5 and April 25 came in a plastic clamshell package with a label that read, “Distributed by Meridian Fruits,” the company said in a statement.

“FreshKampo wants consumers to know that it will continue to work with health officials and supply chain partners to determine where a problem may have occurred along the supply chain and take necessary measures to prevent it from happening again,” the statement said.

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