Officials fear hepatitis A threat in 8 states

  Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 01A

  (Copyright 1997)


  LOS ANGELES -- Tens of thousands of children and educators in eight states

  may have been exposed to hepatitis A through tainted fruit in school lunches,

  officials said Tuesday.


  Federal health officials have notified officials in Arizona, California, Florida,

  Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Tennessee, asking that they find out if

  children ate the fruit.


  Frozen strawberry and blueberry fruit cups served last week in 18 Los Angeles

  public schools may have been contaminated, authorities said.


  ``We heard that 180 cases of hepatitis A were reported in the Michigan schools

  and they traced the outbreak to this lot of strawberries,'' said school spokesman

  Pat Spencer.


  Investigators know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture purchased the

  berries, traced to a San Diego packer, for bulk distribution in school lunches,

  said Barbara Reynolds of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


  Los Angeles officials are urging students and staff to get immunized with gamma



  Hepatitis A is usually a mild liver infection and can be transmitted orally or

  through human waste, often by food handlers. It also can be spread in

  undercooked shellfish from infected waters or through tainted water or ice.


  Symptoms such as jaundice appear 28 days after exposure. Other symptoms:

  fatigue, vomiting, fever and dark urine.


  Word was just spreading in schools here.


  ``I'm angry because they gave us nasty fruit,'' said Wendolyn Alcaraz, 13, a

  seventh-grader at Virgil Middle School, where 384 students may have been