The CDC reports today, as of June 3, 2013, 34 people ill with acute hepatitis A that may be linked with consumption of a contaminated product have been reported by five states: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California. These numbers are expected to change as the investigation continues. Based on epidemiologic investigation of 25 cases:
15 (60%) ill people are women
All people are ages 18 or older, ranging from 24 – 71 years
Illness onset dates range from 4/29/2013 – 5/21/2013
11 (44%) ill people have been hospitalized
19 (76%) of 25 ill people interviewed reported eating ‘Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend,’ a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix
19 persons reported purchasing this product from ‘Costco’ markets; however, investigations are ongoing to determine if this product was sold at other stores or venues.
Investigation by state health departments, FDA, and CDC is ongoing. Costco is notifying its members who purchased this product since late February 2013, and has removed this product from its shelves
Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two cases suggest 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 genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.
According to the label, The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry mix associated with illness contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the US, Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.
Hepatitis A is a human disease and usually occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene. However, food contaminated with HAV, as is suspected in this outbreak, can cause outbreaks of disease among persons who eat or handle food.