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Stanford Report, May 10, 2000

Officials offer advice following recall of frozen strawberries

People who ate frozen, sliced strawberries at Wilbur, Florence Moore or Lagunita Dining Halls between April 21 and April 28 may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

According to Shirley Everett of University Dining Services, contaminated frozen strawberries may have been served as a topping for waffles, yogurt and ice cream at the three dining halls during that eight-day period last month.

Only frozen, sliced strawberries that were thawed and used for topping are suspect, Everett said. The recall did not include fresh strawberries or whole frozen berries used to make fruit smoothies.

"We are not aware of any ill persons on campus as a result of this potential exposure," said Ira M. Friedman, M.D., director of Cowell Student Health Service.

All suspect strawberries were removed from use by Dining Services on April 28 and returned to the food distributor as part of a voluntary nationwide recall prompted by a cluster of hepatitis A cases in Massachusetts last February.

"We are not aware of any other outbreaks of hepatitis A attributed to those strawberries," said Friedman.

Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver that can be serious but, unlike hepatitis B or C, rarely causes complications or death. The virus passes from an infected person in the stool and is most commonly spread through food or contaminated eating utensils.

According to Friedman, people who ate frozen, sliced strawberries as a topping in one of the three dining halls between April 21 and April 28 should wash their hands carefully after using the toilet and before handling food. They should not share eating utensils or water bottles from now until the incubation period has elapsed -- approximately 50 days after exposure.

During the incubation period, individuals should be on the lookout for symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomachache and jaundice, and should immediately contact a medical practitioner or call Cowell at 4-CARE (724-2273) if symptoms appear.

Students who are at risk have been informed, and those who feel they fit the criteria should call Cowell to discuss the advisability of obtaining an immunoglobulin injection, Friedman said.

Everett said that the current situation appears to be resolved and University Dining Services has resumed its usual menu. "We will continue our practice of working with food distributors and health authorities to ensure a safe food supply and to take any suspect items out of circulation immediately," Everett said. SR