Hepatitis A outbreak associated with frozen berry blend: Two local cases linked to national investigation

Two local cases of hepatitis A, which are part of a five-state outbreak, have prompted a warning to consumers not to eat Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen berries sold through Costco stores.

The outbreak that has been linked to at least 30 cases, including six in California. It is being investigated by the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal Food and Drug Administration, and the California Department of Public Health.

The two local individuals with hepatitis A both reported eating the frozen berry blend purchased from Costco. The number of cases in San Diego County and in this outbreak may increase, because on average it can take up to 30 days to become ill with hepatitis A after being exposed to the virus.

“If you ate Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berries within the past two weeks and you have never been vaccinated for hepatitis A or had the disease, you should contact your health care provider to discuss hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., deputy county public health officer.

If you do not have a health care provider, you can contact the County of San Diego’s Epidemiology Program at 

619-692-8499

.

“If you have purchased Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berries, please discard the product,” said McDonald.

Costco has removed this product from its shelves, although a formal recall has not yet been issued. FDA is further investigating this product, including testing the berries for the hepatitis A virus.

The risk of contracting hepatitis A from eating these berries is low. If you have ever been vaccinated for hepatitis A or have been diagnosed with hepatitis A in the past, you are considered protected from the disease. The hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin can prevent infection if given within 14 days of exposure.

Signs of hepatitis A appear two to six weeks after exposure. Symptoms commonly include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine and jaundice (yellow eyes or skin). It is important if you have these symptoms that you seek medical attention and do not work in food service, health care or child care until you are no longer infectious.

Hepatitis A varies in severity, with mild cases lasting two weeks or less and more severe cases lasting four to six weeks or longer. The disease can be severe and result in hospitalization. Some individuals, especially children, may not develop jaundice and may have mild illness. Even people with mild symptoms should consult a health care provider.

Hepatitis A virus is spread person to person or via contaminated food or beverages. People are at increased risk of acquiring hepatitis A when they have had ongoing close personal contact with an infected person, such as in a household setting.

For more information on hepatitis A, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at 

www.cdc.gov

and search “hepatitis A”.

   
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