HealthDay News — A multistate outbreak of hepatitis A illnesses, possibly linked to a frozen berry and pomegranate mix, has sickened 61 people in five states as of June 5, 2013, the CDC reports.

Researchers from the CDC, in collaboration with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are investigating the outbreak.

Results of an epidemiological investigation indicate that 37% were hospitalized due to the illness, and the majority of ill people (73%) reported eating “Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix.

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Most of these people reported purchasing the product from Costco markets. The product contained ingredients from the Unites States, Argentina, Chile and Turkey. Patients were aged 2 to 71 years and 66% were women.

Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two cases indicate that the outbreak strain is genotype 1B of the hepatitis A virus, which circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions, and is rarely seen in the Americas.

“Hepatitis A is a human disease and usually occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene,” according to the CDC. “However, food contaminated with hepatitis A virus, as is suspected in this outbreak, can cause outbreaks of disease among persons who eat or handle food.”

Costco is removing the affected frozen berry and pomegranate mix from it’s shelves and the manufacturer has issued a voluntary recall of certain lots of “Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend” due to the potential for contamination with hepatitis A.

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