Frozen Berry Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to 120 Cases, 54 Hospitalizations

The number of hepatitis A infections linked to recalled frozen berry and pomegranate mixes has increased to include at least 120 cases in 8 different states, with 54 of the people sickened requiring hospitalization.

In all of the identified cases, individuals reported eating ‘Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend’ frozen mixes purchased from Costco stores. However, the product was also sold at various Harris Teeter stores, though no illnesses have been connected with those packages.

Costco recalled the frozen smooth mix earlier this month, removing the product from store shelves and sending notifications to all known customers who purchased the berry blends.

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On June 3, Townsend Farms announced a recall for all 3 pound bags of organic antioxidant berry blends sold at Costco and 10 ounce bags sold at Harris Teeter stores.

According to the latest update provide by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of confirmed illnesses continues to increase with the onset of symptoms ranging between March 31 and June 14, 2013. Approximately 58% of those ill are women. The ages of those affected range from 2 to 84 years-old, with 61% being adults between 40 and 64 years of age. Only five of the cases involve children under the age of 18, but none of those have resulted in hospitalization.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a viral infection. Tainted food with hepatitis A occurs when infected food handlers prepare or handle food without appropriate hygiene.

This particular strain is not often seen in the U.S., but was linked to other outbreaks both this year and last year in Europe and British Columbia and is believed to be the result of infected pomegranate seeds from Egypt.

The FDA and the CDC officials are continuing to investigate the outbreak, including inspections of the Townsend facilities in Fairview, Oregon. The CDC has finalized protocol to test berries for hepatitis A.

The federal health officials are advising people who have eaten the tainted frozen berry pomegranate mix to seek medical attention and obtain the hepatitis A vaccine. Consumers who have been vaccinated will be protected from contracting the virus, according to health officials. Vaccinations are also effective as a treatment for the virus for up to two weeks following exposure.

A number of class action lawsuits have been filed over the hepatitis outbreak, including cases brought by individuals diagnosed with infections, as well as individuals who have required medical attention to obtain hepatitis A vaccines as a result of the infection.


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