87 people now sickened by Hepatitis A from fruit blend sold at Costco
At least 87 people in eight states are now sick with acute hepatitis A infections from a contaminated frozen berry and fruit mix sold at Costco and Harris Teeter stores, and 36 have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC says approximately 70 percent of the victims have reported consuming Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix, which is manufactured by a Fairview, Oregon food company.
Worse yet, more cases are expected to be reported as word of the outbreak spreads. Since March 16 through June 1, victims ranging in age from 2 to 84 have been sickened with the viral liver disease in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.
Since news of the outbreak first broke, dozens of others who consumed the frozen fruit blend product have sought out immune globulin or hepatitis A vaccine to prevent illness. And numerous lawsuits have been filed on behalf of those sickened with this particular strain of Hepatitis A, which has rarely been seen in America, including a class action suit on for those who sought preventive shots.
Additionally, the hepatitis A genotype 1B strain identified in this outbreak was also identified in outbreaks linked to frozen berries mixed with pomegranate seeds in 2012 and earlier this year.
Meanwhile, all of those sickened recently have reported purchasing the frozen berry mix at Costco, which sold the product starting in February, according to the CDC. However, no illnesses have been linked to the product sold by Harris Teeter, while Townsend Farms has recalled certain lots of the product on June 3, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The spread of Hepatitis A occurs when human feces contaminates food. It can also be spread when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand washing. Hepatitis A can cause mild to severe illness, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
Symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, as well as fatigue, abdominal pain, low fever and yellowing of the eyes and skin. However, not everyone with hepatitis A shows signs of disease.
Shots to prevent the illness must be received within two weeks of eating contaminated food in order to prevent illness, health officials said.
SOURCE: 1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A infections potentially associated with “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix, June 10, 2013. 2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Townsend Farms Voluntarily Recalls Limited Lots of Frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend Products Due To Possible Health Risk, June 4, 2013.