All infections traced to product sold at Costco stores, agency says
TUESDAY, June 11, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The number of people sickened in a hepatitis A outbreak that may be tied to a frozen berry/pomegranate mix now stands at 87, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.
As of June 10, cases had been reported in eight states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington. The number of cases is expected to rise as the investigation continues, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said the hepatitis A cases may be connected to Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix.
The agency said 36 people who were sickened have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported. Forty-six of 68 ill people interviewed (70 percent) reported eating Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix.
On June 4, Oregon-based Townsend Farms recalled the frozen berry mixes, which were sold to Costco and Harris Teeter stores. The mixes were sold under the Townsend Farms label at Costco and under the Harris Teeter brand at that chain of stores, the Associated Press reported.
All of those sickened said they'd purchased the product from Costco markets. No cases have been traced to product bought at Harris Teeter, the CDC said.
Costco has removed the product from its shelves and is notifying members who purchased the product since late February 2013, the CDC said.
Preliminary laboratory analyses of specimens from two states suggest the hepatitis A strain responsible for the outbreak is rare in North America but is common in Africa and the Middle East. The strain was pinpointed as the cause of a recent hepatitis A outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries, and to a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia associated with a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. But, there's no evidence that these outbreaks are related, the CDC said.
The label on the Townsend Farms product says it contains products from the United States, Argentina, Chile and Turkey.
According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis A illnesses typically arise within 14 to 28 days of infection. Symptoms may include nausea, fever, lethargy, jaundice and loss of appetite. There's a vaccine against hepatitis A, and it may ease symptoms if given soon after exposure to the virus.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about hepatitis A (http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hepa_ez/ ).
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, June 11, 2013; Associated Press