Two more patients have been confirmed and a second retailer has been named in relation to an outbreak of hepatitis A associated with fresh blackberries.

The implicated blackberries, sold by Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery stores, were also sold at Woodman’s Market, according to an update today from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency is still urging the public to check for the fresh berries, which were sold in September but may have been frozen for later use by some consumers.

The most recent symptom onset date is Nov. 15. As of Tuesday, the FDA is reporting a total of 18 people confirmed in the outbreak. It is likely more patients will be identified because it can take 50 days or more after exposure for symptoms to develop. Six states are reporting confirmed patients. Those states are Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

“Based on the epidemiological information collected in the investigation thus far, ill patients reported consuming fresh, conventional blackberries bought in six states including Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Case patients reported buying them from either Fresh Thyme Farmers Market or Woodman’s Market,” according to today’s update from the FDA.

“Currently, traceback information shows that the berries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market came from a distribution center that ships fresh berries to Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in 11 states. . .”

Officials with the FDA are urging people to discard any blackberries they have on hand that was sold at Fresh Thyme stores in any of the 11 states between Sept. 9-30.

There is a post-exposure that people can receive to prevent the hepatitis A virus from infecting them, but it must be given within two weeks of eating contaminated foods or beverages.

If consumers bought fresh conventional blackberries from Woodman’s Market or at any Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in the 11 states listed above between Sept. 9-30, ate those berries in the last two weeks, and have not been vaccinated for the hepatitis A virus (HAV), they should consult with their healthcare professional to determine whether post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is indicated,” the FDA update says. “PEP is recommended for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to HAV in the last two weeks.”

About hepatitis A infections
Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that can cause liver disease. A hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. In rare cases, particularly for people with a pre-existing health condition or people with weakened immune systems, hepatitis A infections can progress to liver failure and death.

The majority of hepatitis A infections are from unknown causes or from being in close contact with an infected person; however, some hepatitis A infections are caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Contamination of food can occur at any point during harvesting, processing, and distribution.

The illness usually occurs within 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool. 

In some instances, particularly in children under the age of six, hepatitis A infection may be asymptomatic. People with hepatitis A infections usually completely recover within one to two months; however, in rare cases, hepatitis A may cause prolonged or relapsing infection.

Due to the range in severity of illness, people should consult their health care provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble a hepatitis A infection. All people are susceptible to hepatitis A infection; however, individuals who have had hepatitis A before or who have been vaccinated are immune to hepatitis A infection.

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