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Illness Count Rises to 118 in Frozen Berry Hepatitis A Outbreak

At least 118 people in 8 western states are now known to be victims of a hepatitis A outbreak traced to a frozen berry mix sold at Costco.

This count comes as the lastest in an almost daily rise in the number of illnesses, which yesterday was at 106. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 of the victims have been hospitalized as a result of their infections.

Illness onset dates range from March 16 through June 8, 2013.

Those sickened range in age from 2 to 87 years of age. A majority (59 percent) of the victims are women.

Of the 112 patients interviewed, 80 (71 percent) report eating “Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend,” a mix of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds sold at Costco stores, prior to fallin ill. The product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores under the Harris Teeter brand, but no patients have reported eating this product to date.

Costco notified its members of the problem via its electronic notification system on May 30 after being notified of the problem. Approximately 240,000 customers had purchased the berries since late February, when the product is thought to have become potentially contaminated.

The Costco product was distributed in 12 states, including Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington, but no cases from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon or Montana have been reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has begun an investigation into the processing facilities of Townsend Farms, located in Fairview, OR.

Consumers who ate the Townsend frozen berry product within the past two weeks should see a healthcare provider or contact their local health department in order to receive the hepatitis A vaccine. Those who ate the affected product more than 14 days ago will not benefit from the protection of the shot, but should keep an eye out for symptoms of hepatitis A infection, which include nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, pain in the upper right abdomen, diarrhea and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes.

People experiencing symptoms should contact their healthcare provider or their local health department.

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