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CDC: Hepatitis A Outbreak Now at 162 Cases in 10 States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an update Monday reporting that the number of Hepatitis A cases associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend now totals 162, with 71 people having been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The cases were reported in 10 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wisconsin. CDC notes that the cases reported from Wisconsin resulted from exposure to the Townsend Farms product in California, the cases reported from New Hampshire reported exposure during travel to Nevada, and the case reported in New Jersey was a household contact from a confirmed case from Colorado.

Household contact can resulted in what are known as “secondary cases,” or cases that are the result of exposure to an infected individual rather than a contaminated product.

In its latest update, CDC stated that illnesses had been reported in individuals ranging in age from 1 to 84 years. Illness onset dates range from March 31, 2013, to July 25, 2013.

While the product was sold at both Costco Wholesale stores and Harris Teeter stores, nobody has been identified who bought the product at Harris Teeter.

Townsend Farms of Fairview, OR, recalled its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend for potential Hepatitis A contamination on June 3, 2013. Costco notified its members who purchased the product, urging them to receive prophylactic treatment to prevent hepatitis A infection and to discard the berry blend. The recall was expanded on June 28 to include additional UPC codes.

Public health officials ultimately determined that pomegranate seeds included in the Townsend Farms mix were the source of the Hepatitis A outbreak. The pomegranate seeds were imported from Turkey by Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading. FDA said it will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Goknur when they are offered for import into the U.S.

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease that spreads via a “fecal-oral route.” Food-related outbreaks are usually associated with food contaminated during cultivation, harvesting, processing or distribution. Infected restaurant workers are a common source of hepatitis A exposure.

Approximately 10 to 12 days after exposure, Hepatitis A is present in an infected person’s blood and is excreted into their feces. About two weeks after exposure, symptoms appear and the amount of Hepatitis A virus excreted in a person’s feces lessens.

While young children do not typically exhibit symptoms of Hepatitis A infection, older children and adults typically experience muscle aches, headache, abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, fever and malaise 15 to 50 days after exposure.  After a few days of these symptoms, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes) sets in.

In general, symptoms of Hepatitis A usually last less than two months, although relapse is not unknown. Unlike chronic forms of hepatitis, such as B and C, individuals with Hepatitis A infections typically recover. Once a person has recovered from a Hepatitis A infection, they are immune to the virus.

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