Latest Outbreak of Hepatitis A: Frozen Strawberries

Latest Outbreak of Hepatitis A Also Attribute to Frozen Berries: Ron Simon & Associates has Filed Dozens of Hepatitis Lawsuits Linked to Frozen Berries

            A recent Hepatitis A Virus (“HAV”) outbreak linked to frozen strawberries has hit the nation, putting people on high alert when it comes to purchasing their frozen fruits. The illnesses began in November of 2022 and have continued through this year. There are at least five confirmed victims experiencing the symptoms of HAV, with at least two requiring hospitalization as a result. Although this product is sold all over the U.S., so far all of the illnesses reported so far have been located in Washington State.

            According to NPR, “California Splendor of San Diego recalled specific lots of 4-pound bags of Kirkland Signature Frozen Organic Whole Strawberries that were sold at Costco stores in Los Angeles, Hawaii and two San Diego business centers. The lots subject to this recall include: 140962-08, 142222-23, 142792-54, 142862-57, 142912-59, 142162-20, 142202-21, 142782-53, 142852-56, 142902-58, 142212-22, 142232-24, 142842-55.”

            Hepatitis A outbreaks involving frozen fruits are not unheard of. In fact, the Hepatitis lawyers of Ron Simon & Associates have dealt with numerous outbreaks involving HAV infected berries over the years. One outbreak occurred in 2015, and was found to be linked to the frozen berry blend Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend Frozen Berries, sold at Costco across the Western half of the nation. A multistate outbreak, these “tainted berries” were found to be the “source of over 165 hepatitis A illnesses in ten states” according to one news story related to a Hepatitis lawsuit. The culprit? According to the CDC, Pomegranate seeds imported from Turkey

Just days after the outbreak was announced, Ron Simon & Associates filed a hepatitis A lawsuit against Townsend Farms in a Hepatitis A outbreak lawsuit that had, to date, sickened at least 49 patrons in 7 states, hospitalizing at least 11.

            Another outbreak, also handled by Ron Simon & Associates who filed the first hepatitis a lawsuit against Tropical Smoothie Café, occurred just a year later in September of 2016. The outbreak likely sickened many hundreds, with 143 confirmed cases in nine states, including 56 hospitalizations. The CDC and FDA eventually linked the outbreak to frozen strawberries used in smoothies and sold and distributed by Tropical Smoothie Café. It was later found that Tropical Smoothie Café was importing these contaminated strawberries from Egypt, and that consuming the frozen berries resulted in over 120 people ill.

What is Hepatitis A Virus and How is it Contracted?

            It’s clear Hepatitis A can make people very ill, but what is it? Hepatitis A is a very contagious infection that deleteriously affects the liver, and in some cases, can even cause liver failure. A person becomes ill with this infection after eating food or drink contaminated with human feces – the virus passes from one person to another through objects that come into contact with the contaminated feces and then are consumed by another person.  The virus does not replicate outside the human body,  but can lie dormant for a significant period of time before re-ingestion. 

 The symptoms of Hepatitis A take from15 days to up to fifty days to display, making it difficult to discover what caused a person to become ill. People often do not recall what they ate two to eight weeks prior. If a potential victim is vaccinated within 15 days of eating contaminate product, they may be able to defeat the virus. Once a person is HAV positive, the symptoms can last for months. The symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Unusual tiredness and weakness
  • Sudden nausea and vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs, which is over your liver
  • Clay- or gray-colored stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Intense itching

            The best thing consumers can do to prevent catching this infection from someone else is carefully wash all frozen berries, and to be careful to safely wash their hands themselves so as not to pass this potentially deadly virus. Unlike many pathogens, Hepatitis A is spread almost entirely from person to person when someone uses the bathroom, doesn’t wash their hands, and then spreads the bacteria on their hands to the surfaces around them or the foods they touch. At the end of the day, outbreaks of Hepatitis A are preventable. 

If you or a loved one becomes sick after consuming frozen berries, especially if the person appears jaundiced, or begins experiencing other symptoms of hepatitis, it is important to contact a local health provider so they do blood work to check for elevated liver enzymes.  While a normal range for ALT and AST I s in the 7-50 range, people with acute HAV can often have ALT or AST levels in the hundreds or thousands. You can also call the Hepatitis lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates.

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