8 local hepatitis cases linked to Costco frozen berries

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SAN DIEGO — Eight San Diegans have been sickened by a hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen organic berries sold at Costco, the county’s Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

Six of the ill have been hospitalized and recovered, according to the HHSA.

frozen berriesThe agency reported that nearly 50 people across seven states have fallen ill after consuming the berries — about 20 in California.

But many more, maybe even thousands, may have been exposed.

Nearly 300 thousand bags of the frozen fruit product has been recalled.

“I just used them Monday to make smoothies,” said Erin Beremer, of San Diego.

He, his wife and his roommates all consumed the product just this week, “I’m afraid of what may happen,” said Beremer.

Some consumers who had to be hospitalized for hepatitis A after they ate the berries are suing the manufacturer, Townsend Farms.

The outbreak is associated with the recall of Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen berries sold at Costco, according to county health officials, who said they expect more cases to be reported since it can take up to seven weeks to become ill with hepatitis A after exposure to the virus.

“If you ate the recalled frozen berry blend within the past two weeks, talk to your health care provider about getting immunizations to prevent the illness,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Anyone who ate the product should be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis A and seek medical attention early if they appear.”

The HHSA said signs of hepatitis A can appear between two and seven weeks after exposure. Symptoms include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine and jaundice — yellow eyes or skin.

Those who develop the symptoms should seek medical attention and not work in food service, health care or child care until no longer infectious, the HHSA said.

Information on hepatitis A is available on the HHSA website. People without personal physicians can contact the county of San Diego’s Epidemiology Program at 619-692-8499, or call 211 for a list of medical providers in their communities.

Townsend Farms voluntarily recalled the frozen berry product and asked consumers to discard it immediately.

The 3-pound bags have the product code UPC 0 78414 404448 located on the back of the package with the words BEST BY; followed by the code T012415 sequentially through T053115, followed by a letter.

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