June 5, 2013 — The first two Hepatitis A lawsuits have been filed against an Oregon-based company that produces Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, a frozen berry mix sold by Costco and Harris Teeter grocery stores. One lawsuit is a personal injury case filed by a woman in San Diego, California, and the other is a class action lawsuit filed in Oregon. The CDC is recommending that anyone who ate the potentially contaminated berry mix should get a hepatitis A vaccination or immune globulin injections.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 49 people have fallen ill with hepatitis A after consuming the Townsend Farms berry mix. The product has been recalled, removed from store shelves and Costco is in the process of notifying customers.
The plaintiff in the San Diego personal injury lawsuit is Lynda Brackenridge, a 51 year-old resident of Lakewood, California. According to the complaint, she began experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A on May 22 — fatigue, chills, muscle and joint aches, and loss of appetite. After her symptoms worsened to include vomiting, dark urine, and jaundice, she visited a doctor for blood and urine tests. On May 31, she was admitted to Long Beach Memorial Hospital, and the next day she was diagnosed with Hepatitis A.
The class action is seeking damages for all customers who received Hepatitis A vaccinations as a precaution against the disease. Potential damages may include medical expenses, cost of treatment, out-of-pocket expenses, and more. Additional lawsuits and potential class actions are expected in the next few weeks.
The CDC also expanded its ongoing investigation to include the state of Hawaii in addition to Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.
Townsend Farms confirmed that the frozen berry mix contains pomegranate seeds from Egypt, which were also linked to outbreaks of Hepatitis A in 2012 and an earlier outbreak in 2013. The strain of hepatitis A, genotype 1B, is unusual in North America but is more common in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The Hepatitis A virus is usually spread when an infected person suffers diarrhea, fails to wash their hands properly, and then handles foods. The virus survives freezing temperatures and can cause infection with microscopic amounts of fecal matter.
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