Virginia health officials said there are 40 confirmed cases of hepatitis A that are connected to frozen strawberries used at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations across the state, up from 28 cases less than a week ago.
The Virginia Department of Health said in a news release Monday that about 55 percent of the infected residents have been hospitalized.
There are more than 500 of the smoothie franchises across the country, and Virginia is not the only state affected
All the potentially contaminated Egyptian-sourced berries were pulled from the 96 Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia no later than Aug. 8 or Aug. 9.
Officials said more cases could emerge, since some symptoms take as many as 50 days to emerge. The hepatitis A virus affects the liver.
The World Health Organization said almost everyone fully recovers from the liver disease. Symptoms include yellowing of the skin or eyes, fever and nausea.
Tropical Smoothie Café CEO Mike Rotondo has issued an apology.
Below is a full statement from Tropical Smoothie Café:
"Tropical Smoothie Cafe was notified by the Virginia Department of Health about several foodborne illnesses in the state linked to frozen strawberries sourced from Egypt. Our cafes and their food handling practices have not been implicated in any way -- the health department believes this is a single product issue (strawberries) sourced from Egypt. Egyptian strawberries represent a fraction of our overall strawberries purchased, and were predominantly distributed to stores in the Virginia market. Today, our strawberries are primarily sourced from Mexico and California. However, in an abundance of caution, we voluntarily pulled all strawberries sourced from Egypt from every cafe in our system, not only the Virginia cafes. Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and crew members and we will continue to cooperate with the health authorities."