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30 sick with hepatitis A tied to frozen berry blend

At least 30 people in five states have come down with acute hepatitis A after consuming a frozen berry and pomegranate seed blend sold at Costco stores. 

Nine of those who got sick have been hospitalized as part of the outbreak associated with Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials said the numbers are expected to change as investigation continues.

The victims, all adults ranging in age from 25 to 71, reported illnesses between April 29 and May 17.  States include Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.

Eleven of the victims who provided purchase information bought the product from Costco, the CDC said. However, investigations are continuing to see whether the fruit blend was sold elsewhere. 

Tests of specimens from two cases suggest that the outbreak strain is hepatitis A genotype 1B, a strain rarely seen in the Americas but that circulates in North Africa and the Middle East, the CDC said.

According to the product label, the frozen berry mix includes pomegranate seeds and other fruit from the U.S., Argentina, Chile and Turkey.

Hepatitis A typically occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene, the agency noted. However, officials said they suspect that contaminated food may be the culprit in this outbreak.

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness lasting a few weeks to several months. It is usually spread when a patient ingests fecal material. Symptoms can include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, low fever and yellowing of the eyes and skin – but not everyone who contracts hepatitis A shows signs of disease.

Vaccination is the best prevention for the disease.