Product recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm recently reported on an outbreak of hepatitis A from frozen mixed berries sold at Costco. The contaminated berries have sickened nearly 90 people so far in eight states.
Fortunately, only one child has been infected by the hepatitis strain. Health officials initially feared that children would be hit the hardest in this outbreak, as frozen berries are often used in popsicles and smoothies and Costco is a popular shopping outlet for families. Officials are crediting routine vaccinations against hepatitis A, which began around 2006, for the very small number of children involved in the outbreak. Reinforcing this, the one child who became ill, a two-year-old, had not yet been vaccinated.
As of June 10, 2013, the cases have been reported from: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington. According the CDC, the number is expected to rise indefinitely as the investigation continues. The frozen mixed berries were sold at Costco and manufactured by Townsend Farms as Organic Antioxident Blend Frozen Berries.
More than 35 of those infected had to be hospitalized, though fortunately no deaths have been reported. About 70% of ill people interviewed remembered eating the Townsend Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix.
The Oregon-based company recalled the frozen berries on June 4 of this year, which were sold both at Costco and Harris Teeter stores. Costco has removed the product from its shelves and is in the midst of notifying customers who purchased the product after late February 2013.
Laboratory analyses of the hepatitis specimens suggest the particular strain responsible for the outbreak is common in the Middle East and Africa but rarely found in North America. The strain was also the cause of a hepatitis A outbreak in Europe’s northern counties, as well as a 2012 outbreak in Canada’s British Columbia and one in Egypt, all associated with frozen berry blends.
Labeling on the Townsend product states it contains berries from the United States, Argentina, Chile, and Turkey. Hepatitis A illnesses usually manifest within 14 to 28 days after consuming. Symptoms include fever, nausea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and loss of appetite. The vaccination may ease these symptoms if administered quickly after exposure to the virus.
All strains of hepatitis affect the liver, and with hepatitis A the liver typically heals itself over a few weeks to months, not causing long-term problems or complications. There is, however, a small number (about 10 to 15% of the population) who may experience prolonged or relapsing symptoms over a six-to nine-month period. People in this population may include very young children, senior citizens, and those with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer patients.
There are three separate hepatitis viruses, A, B, and C, all of which are spread through the bodily fluids of an infected person. For example, there was a recent hepatitis C scare in Oklahoma after it was discovered a local dentist was not properly sterilizing instruments and needles. About 7,000 patients were exposed to hepatitis C as well as the HIV virus. More than 60 of those patients tested positive for hepatitis C, three for hepatitis B, and one for HIV.
So far one lawsuit has been filed against the dentist, Dr. Wayne Harrington, and his clinic in suburban Oklahoma City. The outbreak began in March 2013 after one patient tested positive for both HIV and hepatitis C. Officials then launched a surprise investigation on Harrington’s practice, revealing reused needles among other gruesome practices. According to the investigation, Harrington was allowing unauthorized and unlicensed employees perform IV sedation of patients, which is illegal and incredibly dangerous.
Product recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on any contaminated food, drugs, and products on American markets. If you or a loved one was seriously sickened or injured by a contaminated product, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.