Hepatitis A outbreak linked to berries sold at natural food stores

Public health officials with the FDA and CDC have linked a hepatitis A outbreak to the consumption of blackberries purchased from a natural food marketplace with stores in the Midwest. Federal experts have been working with public health officials from three states on investigating a hepatitis A outbreak currently involving 11 cases and six hospitalizations.

As of November 20, the CDC said that reports of hepatitis A have rolled in from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Nebraska, with the earliest case having been reported on October 15 and the most recent on November 5. Though six people were hospitalized as part of this outbreak, the CDC says there haven't been any deaths.

All 11 patients were interviewed by investigators and all of them reported having eaten fresh blackberries before contracting the illness. As well, all nine of the people who knew where the blackberries had been purchased reported the location as a grocery store chain called Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, which is located throughout the Midwest.

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores are located in 11 states; the CDC says that fresh blackberries purchased from September 9 to September 30 at one of these stores should be thrown away in order to avoid potentially contracting the illness. Anyone who has eaten blackberries within the last 14 days that were purchased from one of the stores in September and later frozen are advised to get the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin to help prevent the condition.

In its own statement on the matter, Fresh Thyme said, 'At this time, there is no reason to believe that any of the product was contaminated via handling in our stores ... We are working with these agencies to identify our suppliers and isolate the source of this contamination.'