April 27, 2018

Townsend Farms Hepatitis Outbreak Sickens 79, 30 Are Hospitalized

The Townsend Farms hepatitis A outbreak has now sickened 79 people in eight states and hospitalized 30 of them, according to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The outbreak is associated with “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix.

Townsend Farms and Costco Hepatitis ADuring interviews, 40 of the case patients reported buying these berries at Costco. The berry mix was also sold at Harris Teeter stores under the store brand name, but at this time, no illnesses have been associated with product purchased from Harris Teeter. Both Costco and Harris Teeter have removed the product from their stores. Harris Teeter has issued a recall. Costco is notifying customers who have purchased the product since February. Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview, Oregon voluntarily recalled certain lots of the berry mix on June 3.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, dark urine, clay-colored stools and yellow skin or eyes. The symptoms usually appear two to seven weeks after exposure and can last up to two months while the virus runs its course.

The eight states included in the outbreak so far are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington. Health authorities expect this information to change as the investigation continues.

Those sickened range in age from 2 to 84. About 64 percent of the case patients are women. During interviews they reported onset of illness dates ranging  from March 16  to June 1.

Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry contains products from the U.S., Argentina, Chile, and Turkey. Preliminary results from laboratory tests on samples from two states suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain, which is normally found in North Africa and the Middle East, was the source of a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia associated with a  frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. At this point, there is no evidence that the three outbreaks are related.

 

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