About Hepatitis

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Outbreak News

From the fields of Mexico to Western Pennsylvania

Friday, November 28, 2003

By Lillian Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

MEXICALI VALLEY, Mexico -- "Really? These onions go to the United States?" asked Maria Mendive de Hernandez, 32. She has worked harvesting green onions here for about 10 years.

One day this week, she and her husband, Trinidad Hernandez, 42, and their son, Guadalupe, 15, were leaving the fields, going home for a meal.

"Where in the United States are you from?" Trinidad Hernandez asked.

"Pittsburgh. Western Pennsylvania."

"Pennsylvania? How far is that?"

"About 5, 51/2 hours by plane."

Pause.

"How long driving?"

"About two days."

They were fascinated by the idea that the scallions they picked had traveled so far.

They had heard reports about hepatitis on the news, but they had no idea that there was a possible connection between these fields and restaurants in the United States, much less sick people in the United States.

"The onions are always cleaned. They can't be the cause of the problem," Trinidad Hernandez said.

They were uncomfortable with the idea of being photographed though their foreman had said it was OK.

They begged pardon, saying they needed to go home and eat. They had to get up very early to go to work the next day.

They left the fields, sending their regards to Western Pennsylvania.

More on this outbreak: Chi-Chi's Hepatitis A Outbreak

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