Four Utahns contract hepatitis A from berry blend product

Jun 5 2013 - 8:05am


SALT LAKE CITY -- Four Utahns, including two Davis County residents have been sickened with hepatitis A after eating a frozen berry blend product sold at Costco.

The Utah Department of Health has confirmed the Davis County cases, in addition to the other two cases in Kane and Utah counties. The onset of illness in each of the four individuals ranged from mid-March to mid-May, according to UDOH. None of the four had to be hospitalized and all have recovered.

The berries, sold in all 10 Utah Costco stores, have been pulled from the shelves. Costco will also make automated phone calls to members who purchased the food item. The item was identified as Oregon-based Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend and contained berries from multiple locations, including Argentina, Chile and Turkey.

"Consumers are being advised not to eat any of the berries, even if they've been vaccinated," said Utah Department of Health spokeswoman Rebecca L. Ward. "The vaccine does a great job protecting against hepatitis, but we are still just recommending that if you have the berries in your home to discard them. Even if you ate some of the berries and didn't become sick, we are still recommending you throw them away."

Ward said if you ate any of the berries and haven't been vaccinated against hepatitis A, you should contact your doctor or health department to find out if you should be vaccinated or receive immune globulin.

"If you've been exposed, and you're over the age of 40 or have a chronic illness, you will probably be given the immune globulin, but in order for it to be effective, you need to get it within the first two weeks of exposure," Ward said.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by a virus. It can be contracted through contaminated food and water or by close contact with someone who has the illness. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin and eyes, nausea and vomiting, dark urine, pale stools, fatigue and muscle pain. Symptoms can occur between 28 and 50 days after exposure and can last between two and six months, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

As of Tuesday, the CDC has confirmed the illness linked to the berries in 49 people in seven states, including Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Colorado and Utah.

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