The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in coordination with several state health departments, has initiated an hepatitis A outbreak investigation linked to frozen berries distributed by Costco, according to a CDC investigation update May 31.
The multistate outbreak, associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen berries, has sickened at least 30 individuals in five states (Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California).
Nine people required hospitalization for their illnesses.
Two-thirds of the 17 ill people interviewed reported eating ‘Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend,’ a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix.
While some of the patients noted purchasing this product from ‘Costco’ markets; the CDC reminds the public that the investigations are ongoing to determine if this product was sold at other stores or venues.
Costco is notifying its members who purchased this product since late February 2013, and has removed this product from its shelves; however, a formal recall has not been issued.
Preliminary laboratory analysis reveals, in at least two cases, the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions.
This strain has been seen in recent outbreaks in Europe and Canada. A 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.
Health officials from the five western states affected to date have also issued notices for their respective states.
New Mexico Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH said, “It is important that all New Mexicans who have purchased this product remove it from their homes and discard it in their trash. If you have consumed this specific product in the last 14 days you should contact your health care provider about getting hepatitis A vaccine to prevent illness.”
Health officials in California, where six cases have been reported from, issued the same warning–“People who have bought this product should discard it if still found in their home,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH Director and State Health Officer. “Anyone who has consumed this specific product in the last 14 days should contact their doctor to discuss possible hepatitis A prevention and treatment options.”
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort. Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, may occur a few days after symptoms appear. Anyone with these symptoms should contact a health care provider. The incubation period, or time between exposure and symptoms, is typically 28 days. It is possible for hepatitis A to be active but not show symptoms for up to 7 days. Symptoms usually last one to two weeks but can last longer. Young children with hepatitis A often have no symptoms.
Hepatitis A is spread person-to-person and through a fecal-oral transmission route, and typically occurs when a person eats food or drinks a beverage contaminated by someone with the virus. The virus is not spread by coughing, sneezing or by casual contact. Severe complications from hepatitis A are rare and occur more often in people who have liver disease or a weakened immune system.
Thorough hand washing after visits to the restroom, before touching food or drink and after changing a diaper are the best way to control the spread of hepatitis A.
For more information on Hepatitis A, see the CDC’s page “Hepatitis A Information for the Public”.
For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page
Looking for a job in health care? Check here to see what’s available