Friday, October 24, 2014 Headlines & Global News

Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked To Costco Berry Drink

By Rebekah Marcarelli | Jun 01, 2013 10:08 AM EDT

berries
The outbreak was traced back to an Oregon farm that produced a Costco berry drink. (Photo : Flickr)

At least 30 people across five states have tested positive for hepatitis A, the illness was linked back to an Oregon berry producer who sold their products to Costco, The Oregonian reported.

The source of the infection was traced to Townsend Farms in Fairview, Oregon. No patients have been identified in Oregon so far. The outbreak spread across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.

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Symptoms of the virus are "fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and fatigue."

"The incubation is on average a month so it would not be surprising that additional cases would be identified," said Alicia Cronquist, an epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

The Food and Drug Administration stated that 11 out of the 17 patients that were questioned had consumed Townsend Farms Organic Ant-Oxidant Blend.

Experts believe the outbreak was caused by the pomegranate seeds in the drink which were imported from Turkey, not Oregon grown berries.

The farm did not issue a recall on the fruit drink, but Costco stopped selling the infected product immediately.

"We believe the product has been isolated," said Bill Gaar, lawyer for Townsend Farms. "They're in the process of figuring out what their business options are and making sure the public is safe."

Experts claimed that Hepatitis A outbreaks are very rare, but this is the third outbreak globally this year that is associated with frozen berries.  

More than 70 people across Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden got the disease from consuming frozen berries from Egypt and Morocco. Also this year at least 15 European tourists in Italy caught the illness. 

Most cases of Hepatitis A in Americans are associated with traveling abroad, but officials have noticed an increasing amount of cases in people that haven't left the country.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the strain of the virus that has been spreading is more commonly found in Africa and the Middle East.

Hepatitis A cannot be treated, but a vaccine can help as long as it is given within 14 days of exposure. About 50 percent of those afflicted have been hospitalized.

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