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Outbreak of Rare Strain of Hepatitis A Spreads to Hawaii

Another Western state was touched by the outbreak of a rare strain of hepatitis A, adding two more individuals to the list of those sickened nationwide.  Hawaii is the sixth state to be added to the growing outbreak.

State health officials in Hawaii say two adults, one from the island of Oahu and the other from Kauai, are among those sickened with the liver disease.  Like at least another 30 victims on the mainland, the Hawaii residents are believed to have consumed a frozen organic berry mix purchased at local Costco outlets.

The national warehouse outlet based in Seattle has removed the product from its shelves, and contacted it members who purchased the mixed berry product.  But the weekend passed without any official recall by manufacturer of the suspect product, Townsend Farms, based in Oregon.

Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend contains berries from multiple locations (Argentina, Chile and Turkey) and a pomegranate seed mix from Egypt, according to health officials.

On Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta said the outbreak strain (genotype 1B,) usually isn’t seen in the Western Hemisphere, but is more common to the Middle East and Northern Africa.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded its ongoing investigation over the weekend to include Hawaii in addition to the original five sticker states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

Anyone who ate the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries in the last 14 days should contact their personal physician or public health department about getting a vaccine or immune globulin injections, which are administered prophylactically.

Individuals requiring those treatments can become part of a class action lawsuit being filed against Townsend Farms today by the national food borne illness law firm of Marler Clark.

“Consumers of organic frozen berries should not have to worry about their safety,” said William Marler, attorney for the plaintiffs. Marler is also publisher of Food Safety News.

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