Hepatitis A cases rising; frozen fruit suspected

CNN
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 8:04am

A hepatitis A outbreak linked to a frozen fruit mix commonly used in smoothies has grown over the past week, from 34 to 87 reported cases, health officials said.

The cases have been reported in eight states, up from five: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

Thirty-six people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported, the CDC said.

Townsend Farms recalled bags of its Organic Antioxidant Blend this month. The suspected fruit mix was sent to Costco and Harris Teeter stores, the CDC says.

Health authorities have evaluated 68 of the 87 reported cases. Forty-six people reported eating the fruit mix, all of whom bought it from Costco, according to the CDC.

Forty-five of the 68 cases are women; ages range from 2 to 84 years, authorities said.

The outbreak has been traced to pomegranate seeds from Turkey that are in the fruit mix, according to Townsend Farms. The mix contains pomegranate seeds and other produce from Argentina, Chile and the United States.

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water, or by someone who's infected, according to the Mayo Clinic. Frequent handwashing is recommended to limit the spread.

The highly contagious infection inflames the liver, limiting its ability to function.

While mild cases don't require treatment and the Mayo Clinic says most of those infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage, severe cases can lead to liver failure and death, according to the World Health Organization. There are an estimated 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A worldwide.

At Costco, the recalled codes include T012415 through T053115; consumers can find these on the back of the package near the words "Best by." Harris Teeter packages have "Best by" codes of T041615E or T041615C.

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