RICHMOND, Va. -- The number of confirmed cases of hepatitis A linked to frozen strawberries used at Tropical Smoothie Cafes across Virginia continues to climb.
As of noon on September 2, there were seven new confirmed cases, bringing the total number among Virginia residents to 66, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
This includes six cases in Central Virginia.
There are 37 in Northern Virginia, 10 in Northwest Virginia, and 13 in the eastern region on the state.
The hepatitis A outbreak was first reported on August 19, and the cases have steadily increased.
A law firm representing several people who became sick announced plans to file a class action lawsuit against the chain in connection with the outbreak.
The dates of the 66 hepatitis A cases range from early May through August, according to the VDH.
Initial reports were that the VDH identified a possible link between frozen strawberries from Egypt that were used at Tropical Smoothie Cafés between August 5 and August 8.
However, on August 29, the VDH website indicated the exposure could go back to May.
“Onsets of illness for the 40 cases range from early May through mid-August. The common exposure shared by ill persons was not hypothesized until August, at which time VDH re-interviewed persons reported earlier in the year to confirm the link with smoothie consumption.”
Health officials say the ages of the 66 Virginia residents who had tested positive for hepatitis A range from 14-68 and approximately 42% of them were hospitalized.
Recently, CBS 6 reported urgent care offices in the Richmond-area have seen an increase in patients with symptoms that might be caused by hepatitis A.
Classic symptoms of hepatitis A are fatigue, nausea, abdominal cramps and jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and eyes. Symptoms can develop 50 days after exposure, officials said.
The CEO of Tropical Smoothie Café said the strawberries in question were voluntarily removed from all stores when they learned of a possible link. The company says the tainted product was removed from at all their restaurant locations by or before August 9th.
People who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A are not at risk, officials said. Additionally, health experts stressed customers who consumed a smoothie after the strawberries were pulled from restaurants are not be at risk.