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99 cases of hepatitis A may be linked to frozen berries

CBS NEWS/ June 14, 2013, 4:58 PM

[h=1]CDC: 99 cases of hepatitis A may be linked to
Townsend Farms product[/h]

This handout image provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows the label of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., Organic Antioxidant Blend, packaged under the Townsend Farms label at Costco and under the Harris Teeter brand at those stores. The Oregon company is recalling a frozen berry mix sold to Costco and Harris Teeter stores after the product was linked to at least 34 hepatitis A illnesses in five states. / FDA/AP

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now investigating 99 cases of hepatitis A infections across eight states that may be linked to tainted frozen fruit.
Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, which was sold in Costco and Harris Teeter retailers, contained pomegranate seeds from Turkey that may be behind the outbreak. Hepatitis A, a dangerous liver-damaging disease, is rarely seen in the Americas, but is more frequently found in North Africa and the Middle East.
No cases of illness have been linked to the products sold in Harris Teeter stores.Costco has removed the product in question from their retailers, and notified everyone who purchased Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix since late February 2013. Costco also provided vaccines for anyone who purchased the product from them, and reimbursed anyone who obtained a vaccine elsewhere.
Townsend Farms, which is based in Oregon, voluntarily recalled the product on June 3.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and discomfort, especially in the liver area. People may also experience a loss of appetite, low-grade fever and yellowing of the eyes and skin. Illness occurs between 15 and 50 days from exposure.
Sickness possibly related to the frozen fruit has been reported in Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington, according to the CDC. This specific infection is hepatitis A virus (HAV) genotype 1B. This same type was found during a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt, but those events are not related to the U.S. outbreak.
Based on the information the CDC has gathered from 87 of the 99 people who may have been sickened by the frozen product, the poisoned range from 2 to 87 years in age. The majority (63 percent) are women, and 51 percent of all the patients have been hospitalized. Seventy-one out of the 87 people reported eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix and buying it from Costco.
The Associated Press reported that a lawsuit was filed in New Mexico against Townsend Farms. The plaintiff is asking for compensation for treatment and reimbursement for vaccines. Similar lawsuits have been filed in California, Hawaii and Washington.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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