Federal officials still can’t say for sure where the blackberries came from, but today they repeated their public warning about fresh berries that were sold in the fall of 2019 and linked to a multi-state hepatitis A outbreak.
As of today, public health labs have confirmed 20 patients in the seven-state outbreak, according to an investigation update from the Food and Drug Administration. More than half have been so sick they required hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is declaring the outbreak is over.
Even though the blackberries were sold in September, there has been an ongoing concern because so many people freeze fresh berries for later use in smoothies, salads, and desserts. Also, it can take up to 50 days after exposure to the liver virus for symptoms to develop, according to the CDC. The most recent person to be confirmed in the outbreak became ill on Nov. 15, 2019.
“People who purchased the fresh blackberries and then froze those berries for later consumption should not eat these berries. They should be thrown away,” the FDA warned today.
“If consumers purchased conventional blackberries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in the 11 (implicated) states . . . or from Woodman’s Market located in Wisconsin and Illinois between Sept. 9-30, ate those berries in the last two weeks, and have not been vaccinated for the hepatitis A virus, they should consult with their healthcare professional to determine whether post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is indicated. PEP is recommended for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to HAV in the last two weeks.”
The 11 states where the fresh blackberries were sold are Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Outbreak patients specifically reported eating fresh, conventional blackberries bought in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
“FDA completed its traceback investigation, however a single, common source of fresh, conventional blackberries could not be identified,” according to today’s investigation update.
About hepatitis A infections
Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that can cause liver disease. It easily survives in foods and beverages at freezing temperatures.
Infections 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, according to the CDC.
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.
Symptoms usually develop within 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool. In some instances, particularly in children under the age of 6, hepatitis A infections may be asymptomatic.
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