Local health officials help investigate Hepatitis A outbreak

The El Dorado County Public Health Division of the Health and Human Services Agency and the Environmental Management Division of the Community Development Agency are working with the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and western state health departments to investigate a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A cases.

The outbreak is believed to be associated with consumption of Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries purchased from Costco. The product has been recalled, and Costco has removed it from its shelves and is notifying member customers.

The California Department of Public Health is advising consumers not to eat the frozen berries associated with the outbreak and to throw away or return any unused product to Costco. People who have consumed the product within the last 14 days should consult with their health care provider to discuss possible hepatitis A prevention and treatment options. Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent infection if given within 14 days of exposure.

As of June 4, 49 people ill with acute hepatitis A that may be linked to consumption of the recalled berries have been reported in seven states, according to the CDC. There have been no reported deaths. El Dorado County health officials have identified one confirmed case associated with the hepatitis A outbreak. The individual sought medical attention and is improving.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that is usually spread when an infected food handler prepares food without properly washing their hands. It can also be spread from person to person through close contact, and through contaminated food or beverages. Symptoms of hepatitis A include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, pain in the abdomen, dark urine and jaundice (yellow eyes or skin).  Persons with these symptoms should immediately consult with their health care provider and should not go to work, especially if they work in food service, health care or child care.

Most people with hepatitis A recover completely, but sometimes hepatitis A can lead to severe illness and hospitalization. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to always wash hands thoroughly right after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing, serving or eating food.

State and local health officials will continue to monitor the outbreak. El Dorado County residents who believe they may have eaten the berries associated with the outbreak within the last 14 days and who do not have a health care provider may contact the El Dorado County Public Health Division to determine if a vaccination may be appropriate.  The Public Health Division can be reached at (530) 621-6320.

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Posted by on Jun 6 2013.
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