Hep A Cases Possibly Associated With Berries Reported In El Paso Co.

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A local family is wondering if the frozen berries they ate made them sick. The berries are part of a recall believed to be associated with a hepatitis A outbreak.

The outbreak was first reported Friday when the CDC announced that 30 people had fallen ill in Colorado and four other western states since late April. Tuesday, that number rose to 49. Health officials says it takes around 30 days to become sick with hepatitis A, so that number could continue to go up as more people begin showing symptoms.

The outbreak is believed to be linked to the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries. Last week, Costco began removing the product from their shelves. Townsend Farms has since issued a voluntary recall.

Ryan Guardado and his 2-year-old daughter drink berry smoothies all the time. In early May, both got sick for about two weeks.

"My daughter, seeing her sick and not understanding why, was pretty aggravating I would say, and not only that, I’m going through the same thing as well," Ryan said.

"I threw away all the food we had pretty much. I bought new food, I washed everything in the house, sanitized everything," his wife Maya Guardado added.

Maya didn't eat the berries and she never got sick. Last week she got an automated call from Costco alerting her to the Townsend Farms berry recall.

"We listened to the voicemail together and I'm just like, 'I knew it!' Kind of like, I didn't know it, but I knew it had to be something I ate," Ryan said.

Right now, Ryan isn't sure if he and his daughter actually got hepatitis A, but he said everything seems to add up.

"Now it makes me scared that my daughter and husband could've had it,” Maya said.

Ryan plans to go back to his doctor to see if he and his daughter can still be tested for the infection.

The following is the entire news release from the state department of health:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment continues to work with the CDC and FDA to investigate an outbreak of hepatitis A cases believed to be associated with a froze berry and pomegranate mix purchased in Colorado from Costco stores.

The CDC has reported 49 people who are ill with acute hepatitis A that may be linked with consumption of the contaminated product. Colorado has 12 cases under investigation from eight counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Clear Creek, Douglas, Eagle, El Paso and Jefferson. Other states reporting cases are Arizona, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.

Townsend Farms has issued a voluntary recall of its Organic Antioxidant Blend, 3-pound bag and UPC 0 78414 404448. This blend includes cherries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries and strawberries.

The state health department is asking people to check their freezers. If you have the product, dispose of it. Do not eat it. Even if some of the product has been eaten without anyone in your home becoming ill, the rest of the product should be discarded.

The first people became ill on April 29 and the most recent on May 24. On average, it takes 30 days to become ill with hepatitis A after eating contaminated food.

The risk of contracting hepatitis A from eating this berry and pomegranate mix is low. However, if you have eaten any Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix during the past 14 days, contact your medical provider for an immunization. If you do not have a medical provider, contact your local health department.

The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent infection if given within 14 days of exposure. Some people should receive immune globulin instead of the hepatitis A vaccine. If you ate this berry and pomegranate mix within the past 14 days, please discuss with your doctor whether you should receive the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin. If you have received hepatitis A vaccine in the past, you do not need to be revaccinated.

If it has been more than 14 days since you have eaten this berry mix, the vaccine won’t be effective preventing infection. Please monitor for symptoms and contact your physician if you become ill.

Early signs of hepatitis A appear two to six weeks after exposure. Symptoms commonly 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). It is very important if you have these symptoms that you do not go to work, especially if you work in food service, health care or child care.

The disease varies in severity, with mild cases lasting two weeks or less and more severe cases lasting four to six weeks or longer. Hepatitis A infection can be severe and can result in hospitalization. Some individuals, especially children, may not develop jaundice and may have an illness so mild it can go unnoticed. However, even mildly ill people can be highly infectious. People with symptoms suggestive of hepatitis should consult a physician immediately, even if symptoms are mild.

Hepatitis A virus is spread as a result of fecal contamination (fecal-oral route) and may be spread from person to person through close contact or food handling. The virus is commonly spread by contaminated food or beverages. People are at increased risk of acquiring hepatitis A when they have been in close contact with an infected person.

For more information, please call COHelp at 1-877-462-2911.