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US Hepatitis A outbreak could be linked to EU illnesses

By Joe Whitworth+

04-Jun-2013

An outbreak of Hepatitis A in the US that has sickened at least 34 people has been linked to a similar outbreak in Europe which left more than 70 people ill earlier this year.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Hepatitis A illnesses potentially associated with Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, a frozen blend containing pomegranate seed mix.

According to the label, the Townsend Farms product contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the US, Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.

Illnesses reported

In the latest update yesterday, 34 people infected with Hepatitis A have been reported from five states: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two cases suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B which is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.

The CDC said the genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.

The European outbreak identified frozen berries eaten in smoothies as a potential vehicle according to a case-control study .

Joint investigation

Through interviews with ill patients, the CDC has reported that 11 of 17 patients interviewed so far recalled eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend.

FDA has begun an inspection of the processing facilities of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Oregon.

The agency is also developing a protocol to test berries for the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), and will be testing samples related to the outbreak, including the frozen blend for the presence of HAV.

According to the latest figures 15 (60%) ill people are women, all are aged 18 or older, ranging from 24–71 years, illness onset dates range from 4/29/2013 – 5/21/2013 and 11 ill people have been hospitalized.

The CDC reported that 19 (76%) of 25 ill people interviewed reported eating ‘Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend,’ a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix.

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