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Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Blackberries

NOV 20, 2019 | MICHAELA FLEMING
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A potentially linked to blackberries.

The agency is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local partners to investigate the outbreak.

According to the CDC, there have been 11 outbreak-associated cases of hepatitis A in Indiana, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. At this time there have been 6 hospitalizations, but no deaths have been reported. The onset of illness dates range from October 15 to November 5, 2019.

The ill individuals range in age from 14 to 73 years, with a median age of 35 years. Additionally, 73% of the ill are female.

At this time, it is believed that the outbreak is linked to fresh conventional (non-organic) blackberries from the grocery store Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. As part of the outbreak investigation, health officials asked ill individuals about their exposures and consumptions prior to falling ill. In the interviews, 11 of the 11 individuals reported eating fresh blackberries and 9 of these individuals purchased the berries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market.

However, the epidemiological investigation has determined that the berries came from a distribution center that ships fresh berries to stores in 11 states.

At this time the CDC and the FDA are advising consumers to throw away blackberries purchased between September 9-30, 2019, from any Fresh Thyme Farmers Market Locations. Individuals who have eaten these berries who are not vaccinated against hepatitis A, should contact their local health department or health care provider to discuss a postexposure prophylaxis hepatitis A vaccine. If administered within 14 days, prophylaxis can prevent illness.

Hepatitis A typically appears 2 to 7 weeks following exposure. Symptoms include yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, joint pain, and stomach pain, among others. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and even death, although this is more common in older people and in people with other serious health issues, such as chronic liver disease.

The health agencies are collecting records from grocery stores where the ill individuals reported purchasing the fresh blackberries in order to identify a specific brand or distributor.

This is an ongoing investigation and the FDA will continue to work with federal and state partners to gain more information and will provide updates as they become available. Illnesses that are related to this outbreak may not be reported yet due to the time it takes for symptoms to appear after exposure, and the time it takes from onset of illness to when the illness is reported to health officials.
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