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The CDC has announced an increase in Hepatitis A illnesses linked to a Fresh Thyme Blackberry Hepatitis A Outbreak. The CDC and the FDA have put the public on notice that they are investigating a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A that may be linked to fresh conventional (non-organic) blackberries purchased from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market from September 9-30, 2019.
So far, 16 outbreak-associated cases of hepatitis A have been reported from 6 states (Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin). Nine of those who are sick have been hospitalized. Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 8, 2019, to November 15, 2019.
There is no recall of blackberries at this time.
According to the CDC, “Efforts to identify suppliers of the blackberries are ongoing. A risk of acquiring hepatitis A virus infection is present for anyone who consumed contaminated blackberries purchased during this timeframe, including blackberries that may have been frozen for later consumption.”
A single, common supplier of fresh blackberries has not been identified. According to interviews, 15/15 (100%) reported eating fresh blackberries and of 13 cases with known fresh blackberry purchase location information, 13/13 (100%) purchased fresh blackberries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market.
However, traceback information to date shows that these berries came from a distribution center that ships fresh berries to Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in 11 states: IA, IL, IN, KY, MI, MO, MN, NE, OH, PA, and WI.
The FDA recommends:
“consumers to not eat any fresh conventional blackberries if purchased between September 9 and September 30, 2019, from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in the 11 states mentioned above. People who purchased the fresh blackberries and then froze those berries for later consumption should not eat these berries. They should be thrown away.
If consumers purchased fresh conventional blackberries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in the 11 states listed above between September 9-30, ate those berries in the last two weeks, and have not been vaccinated for the hepatitis A virus (HAV), they should consult with their healthcare professional to determine whether post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is indicated. PEP is recommended for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to HAV in the last two weeks. Those with evidence of previous hepatitis A vaccination or previous hepatitis A infection do not require PEP.
Contact your healthcare provider if you think you may have become ill from eating these blackberries, or if you believe that you have eaten these berries in the last two weeks.”
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. Symptoms include: loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown colored urine, and light-colored stools. The most notable symptom is yellowing of the skin or eyes. People can become sick up to seven weeks after exposure.
The virus usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetectable amounts of stool from an infected person. This is spread when an infected person does not wash their hands effectively after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that could increase the risk of infection.
Once infected, relapse symptoms are likely. These relapses can continue for as long as 6 months. Fatality rates are low for this virus at 0.3% (increased to 1.8% for those over 50 years). Underlying chronic liver disease is a whole other story. This particular condition increases the risk of death.
Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death; this is more common in people older than 50 and in people with other liver diseases.
How do I know if I have Hepatitis A?
The Hepatitis A virus affects the liver and can be spread though consuming contaminated food and drink as well as person-to-person contact. It is important to stay home from school, work, or activities where you are in close quarters with others if you are sick, particularly with hepatitis A or a diarrheal illness to prevent the spread of illness. Those who are infected with hepatitis A may not even know they are infected for up to two weeks. It often takes 14 days for symptoms to appear. If possible, those who have jobs in which they interact with the public should get vaccinated to prevent infection and prohibit the spread of infection. If you have been vaccinated or have already had the virus, you are protected from the illness.
In 2016, there were an estimated 4,000 hepatitis A cases in the United States. Hepatitis A rates have declined by more than 95% since the hepatitis A vaccine first became available in 1995.
The CDC reports the symptoms of Hepatitis A infections as “a sudden onset of fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Some people have no symptoms, while others have symptoms that last 1-6 months.” Children and some adults may not show any symptoms at all.
As Hepatitis A causes liver inflammation, and could cause liver damage, medical attention is recommended for anyone showing signs or symptoms of a Hepatitis A infection. A Hepatitis A vaccine is also recommended for any unvaccinated consumers.
Yes! Yes, and yes.
Statistically, cases of hepatitis A have declined in the United States since the introduction of the hepatitis A vaccine. This 95% decline since 1995 is significant. The vaccine is making an epidemiological impact, in a good way.
Don’t wait until you are exposed. If you are not already vaccinated, you can do so at any time. In fact, the CDC urges children over the age of 1 year to be vaccinated. You should be vaccinated if you are someone who has a higher risk for infection or someone who may have a higher risk for complication from hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
Contamination of food (this can include frozen and undercooked food) by hepatitis A can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking. Contamination of food or water is more likely to occur in countries where hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. In the United States, chlorination of water kills hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) routinely monitors natural bodies of water used for recreation for fecal contamination so there is no need for monitoring for hepatitis A virus specifically.
Although anyone can get hepatitis A, in the United States, certain groups of people are at higher risk, such as:
Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water. When corporations cause Hepatitis A food poisoning outbreaks or Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable. The Lange Law Firm is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.
If you got sick after eating blackberries in this Fresh Thyme Blackberry Hepatitis A Outbreak and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we can help. Our Hepatitis A lawyer can help you pursue compensation for your Hepatitis A infection. Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.
By: Candess Zona-Mendola, Editor (Non-Lawyer)