The Hepatitis A outbreak linked to contaminated frozen berries is now affecting seven states. It affected 60% of women ages two to seventy one. The first five states to report the incidence of the outbreak are Nevada, Colorado, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. Now, Utah and Hawaii are the latest addition to the list, according to the officials of CDC. The HAV contaminated frozen berries came from the pomegranate seeds imported from Turkey. The FDA inspected the facilities of Townsend Farms in Fairview, Oregon and found that the pomegranate seeds mixed with other frozen fruits is associated with the outbreak.
Costco already recalled for the entire frozen berries’ product out of their shelves and called the purchasers by phone to notify them about the Hepatitis A or HAV outbreak. The FDA reports that between May 4 and May 30 2013, 1157 bags of organic Antioxidant Blend were sold in Nevada, and 333,000 bags nationwide between January and May 2013. Aside from pomegranate seeds from Turkey, the FDA is also investigating the production, as well as other sources of the berry mix supply from Argentina, the U.S. and Chile. The CDC, FDA, and HHSA are warning the public not to consume these berries mixes and reports any symptoms of infection to the authorities.
The CDC also reported at the end of April was the start of the outbreak. The same genetic makeup of HAV was identified in the European outbreak tied to the frozen blend mix this year, and the last year’s outbreak in British Colombia tied to a frozen fruit blend with pomegranate seeds imported from Egypt.
About Hepatitis A
HAV is a highly contagious liver infection affecting the liver’s ability to function. The virus can spread through contaminated water and food with someone who is already infected. While the symptoms are the same, it can attack the liver in different ways. Hepatitis A appears as an acute or newly occurring infection but it does not become chronic. Mild cases of Hepatitis A do not require treatment and people who were infected can recover without any permanent liver damage.
WHO reports that Hepatitis A is one of the most common causes of food borne infection affecting 1.4 million people every year. The incubation period is 14 to 28 days and may show symptoms such as mild to severe fever, loss of appetite, jaundice, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and nausea. Sometimes, the symptoms may not show at all. Unvaccinated individuals with previous case of infection can contract hepatitis A.
Treatment and Prevention Efforts
The Hepatitis A virus or HAV can survive outside the body for months. It is even relatively resistant to gamma irradiation, inactivation of heat, and chemical germicides and in certain conditions survives in dried feces, sea water, and live oysters. According to studies conducted in the past decade, HAV can retain its effectiveness for several days on vegetables and fruits, which are often consumed raw.
According to the World Health Organization, HAV has no specific treatment. There are therapies that aim to maintain an infected person’s comfort and nutritional balance. If the patient has diarrhea and is vomiting, doctors recommend replacement fluids. Through hygiene and sanitation, food safety, and immunization are effective steps to prevent hepatitis infection. Vaccination can prevent the infection if administered within two weeks of exposure, according to CDC.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas