Health officials have linked an outbreak of acute hepatitis A that
has sickened at least 30 people in five states to a frozen berry and
Cases have been reported in Colorado, New Mexico,
Nevada, Arizona, and California. In a release Friday, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention said the first victims fell ill on April
29 and the most recent case was May 17. It is believed more will come.
outbreak appears to be linked to a frozen berry blend sold by Costco
called The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend Frozen Berry Mix, a
frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix. Costco is notifying all members
who purchased the product since late February and has removed it from
Health officials don't yet know if the product was
sold at other stores or markets. They do know that frozen berry blends
are often used to make smoothies, frozen bar drinks and other types of
desserts and drinks. One concern is that smaller businesses might have
bought bulk frozen berries at Costco and then used them in other
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection
caused by a virus. Of the people who've been sickened in this
outbreak, 47% have been hospitalized, the CDC said. Some people who
contract it have no symptoms but many have fever, fatigue, nausea,
vomiting, and abdominal and joint pain.
The virus is most often
transmitted when an infected food handler prepares food with dirty
hands. Food contaminated with hepatitis A can also transmit the disease
to people who ate or handled it.
According to the label, the berry
blend contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the U.S.,
Argentina, Chile and Turkey.
The strain of hepatitis A in this
outbreak is rarely seen in the USA, said CDC's Lola Russell. It's known
to circulate in North African and the Middle East. The same type of
hepatitis A was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen
berries and another one in 2012 in Canada linked to a frozen berry
blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt, she said.