30 people sickened by Hepatitis A from fruit blend sold at Costco
At least 30 people in five states in the U.S. now have acute hepatitis A after consuming a frozen berry and pomegranate seed product sold at Costco stores.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the 30 people sickened, 9 have been hospitalized due to consumption of the product, sold under the brand Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend. The CDC reports it expects the number of people sickened to increase as the investigation continues.
All of the victims so far have been adults between the ages of 25 to 71, with their illnesses reported during the period from April 29 through May 17.
States reporting victims of acute hepatitis include Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California, and 11 of the victims provided purchase information after buying bought the product from Costco, the CDC said.
An investigation continues in an effort to find out if the fruit blend has been sold anywhere else.
In the meantime, tests of specimens from two cases of the fruit product suggest that the outbreak strain is hepatitis A genotype 1B, which is rarely seen in the United States, according to the CDC, but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.
Hepatitis A typically occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene, the agency noted. However, officials said they suspect that contaminated food may be the culprit in this outbreak.
The product label attached to the frozen berry blend lists pomegranate seeds and other fruit from the U.S., Argentina, Chile and Turkey.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease. It can cause victims to suffer from mild to severe illness, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
Symptoms include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, low fever and yellowing of the eyes and skin – but not everyone who contracts hepatitis A shows signs of disease.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when a patient ingests fecal material. The best way to prevent it is to get a vaccination.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A potentially associated with a frozen berry blend food product, May 31, 2013