Berries Blamed for Hepatitis A Outbreak

Hepatitis A outbreak tied to frozen berries caused infections in eight states

(RxWiki News) Organic fruit may be produced without chemicals or pesticides, but that doesn't mean it is immune from being contaminated with foodborne illness. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Monday that an outbreak of hepatitis A has now caused 87 infections in association with a frozen berry and pomegranate mix.

"Pay attention to food recall announcements."

According to the CDC, infections have been reported in eight different states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington. 

The CDC reported that an investigation into 68 of the cases showed that 70 percent of infected patients had reported eating the “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix. 

Townsend Farms, Inc., the company producing the berry mix, recalled certain lots of the product on June 3. 

All of the patients had reported purchasing the product from Costco markets, though the product was also available at Harris Teeter stores. 

CBS News reported that Costco is providing vaccinations to customers who ate the berries and has contacted around 240,000 of its members who purchased the product.

The CDC has recommended that anyone who has eaten the product in the last two weeks and has never been vaccinated for hepatitis A speak to their doctor about vaccination. 

The preliminary investigation also showed that 66 percent of the patients were female, with ages ranging from two to 84 years old.

The patients became ill between March 16 and June 1, and while 53 percent of the people involved have been hospitalized, no deaths have occurred. 

According to the CDC, infections from the hepatitis A virus, which affects the liver, can range in severity.

Sometimes patients experience mild illness for a few weeks, and sometimes they experience several months worth of severe illness. However, most cases of hepatitis A do not result in lasting liver damage or chronic illness. 

Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, joint pain, dark-colored urine and jaundice, a yellowing to the skin or eyes. 

"Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two states suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B," reported the CDC. "This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions."

CDC noted that the investigation into the outbreak is ongoing and involves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments and CDC.

Review Date: 
June 12, 2013