For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have used the word “linked” to refer to the multistate outbreak of hepatitis A infections and Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries sold at Costco stores. Now 127 people have been sickened in this outbreak. Fifty five people have been hospitalized.
The investigation has revealed that the most likely vehicle for the hepatitis A virus is a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Turkey used by Scenic Fruit Company to make the recalled Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels and by Townsend Farms to make their recalled product. The pomegranate seeds from this shipment were the only ingredient common to all of the recalled products.
The case count per state in this outbreak is: Arizona (17), California (64), Colorado (25), Hawaii (7), New Mexico (5), Nevada (5), Utah (2), and Wisconsin (2). The outbreak strain of the virus, genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 56 people in seven states: Arizona (6), California (15), Colorado (22), Hawaii (4), New Mexico (4), Nevada (4), and Wisconsin (1; exposed in California). Seventy-one (58%) of the ill persons are women. Most of those who are ill (1%) are between the ages of 40 and 64 years. Six children under the age of 18 have also been sickened; none of them were previously vaccinated. All those who reported eating this product bought it from Costco. No cases have been identified who bought the product from Harris Teeter.
FDA is working to identify and contact other food processors who may have received pomegranate seeds from this shipment from Turkey. And the FDA is testing samples using a protocol they developed to find the virus.