Hepatitis A outbreaks linked to Starbucks strawless drinks

WARNING: This article contains shocking health risks

The FDA’s website says there is a “moderate” risk of hepatitis A infection in people who have touched unscreened drink containers at chains that serve Starbucks coffee.

More than 500 health care workers in the United States have been affected by hepatitis A outbreaks linked to a Starbucks coffee drink dispenser in recent months, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said.

Health officials have issued warnings about the Starbucks strawless iced beverage in about 500 facilities across the country, and specifically pinpointed 135 facilities in Michigan, California, Illinois, Texas and Indiana as “hot-spot” locations.

The agency warned that Starbucks strawless cold drink containers have only circulated in retail locations in California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Florida, and that the company had not been able to identify the source of the outbreak.

“There is a moderate risk of hepatitis A infection in people who may have handled the unscreened drink containers, but who have not been immunized,” said the FDA.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease, and in the United States, outbreaks have a very high rate of transmission through close contact with unwashed hands and shared beverages like coffee cups and ice.

The FDA’s most recent alert to the public says that so far, 85% of the affected hospitals in California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana have come into contact with all three patients. Of the 90 people who got infected with hepatitis A in the areas, 85% are recovering, they said.

Officials said Starbucks is developing a new drink dispenser that is not yet available in all retail locations, and urges customers who have used a non-fluid dispenser in those facilities to contact their doctors or health care providers if they develop symptoms of hepatitis A.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin or eyes, which can begin up to one month after exposure.

Two doses of hepatitis A vaccine are recommended for healthy adults, and between 7-10 doses are recommended for people who have pre-existing liver disease or don’t respond to the vaccine, according to the World Health Organization. Those aged 15 to 64 years old who haven’t been vaccinated should also be vaccinated.

Mandy Buffington, a doctor and manager for the Michigan Health Department’s hepatitis A prevention team, told the Detroit Free Press she didn’t believe the outbreak would spread beyond the area.

Buffington told the newspaper that she hasn’t received any patient calls about the incident, but “it’s still something that I think we just have to be aware of.”

What do people know about hepatitis A?

It is transmitted by contact with faecal matter and, through this, blood or fecal matter.

Many people have been exposed to hepatitis A at some point in their lives, either through handling food infected with the virus, wearing contaminated clothing or working in a toilet or food-service area.

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