Frozen berries linked to hepatitis A outbreak - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

TUESDAY, June 4, 2013

Frozen berries linked to hepatitis A outbreak

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - It will take 30 days for hepatitis A to show up in the unlucky people who will get infected by a particular Costco frozen berry blend sold in San Diego County, and people who consumed the product were urged Saturday to seek medical help.

Two county residents have been diagnosed with hepatitis A, and are part of a five-state outbreak believed to be linked to a frozen berry blend sold in Costco stores, county health officials said.

At least 30 cases of hepatitis A were reported nationwide, six of which were in California, including patients in San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties. Health officials warned consumers not to eat Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries sold at Costco, which all six California patients ate.

The number of local cases may increase, Dr. Eric McDonald, the county's deputy public health officer said.

"If you ate Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries within the past two weeks and you have never been vaccinated for hepatitis A or had the disease, you should contact your healthcare provider to discuss hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin," he said.

Those who purchased the frozen berry blend should discard the product, McDonald said.

The county's Tom Christensen said it takes about 30 days to become ill with hepatitis A after being exposed, so the number of cases in San Diego County could grow. Those without a health care provider should call the county's Epidemiology Program at (619) 692-8499.

Hepatitis A can lead to hospitalization and severe illness, although most people recover completely, according to the California Department of Public Health. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay- colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice -- a yellowing of the skin or eyes. Symptoms generally develop two to six weeks after consuming contaminated food or drink.

Christensen said the risk of contracting the disease from eating the berries was low, and those who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A or were diagnosed with it in the past were considered protected from the disease. The vaccine or immune globulin can prevent infection if given within 14 days of exposure.

Even those with mild symptoms should consult a healthcare provider, he said.

San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency was investigating the outbreak, as were the Centers for Disease Control, the federal Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Public Health. The retailer stopped selling the product, but it has yet to be recalled, authorities said.

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