LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A hepatitis A outbreak in Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin has been traced to blackberries sold in Fresh Thyme grocery stores and federal authorities on Wednesday warned consumers in 11 states, including Ohio, against eating some berries bought from that chain.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release that the outbreak began several weeks ago in Nebraska. The department said it, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating and have confirmed 11 cases of the virus, including six in Nebraska.
Fresh Thyme said in a written statement that it’s cooperating with the investigation, working to identify its suppliers and isolate the source of the contamination.
“At this time, there is no reason to believe that any of the product was contaminated via handling in our stores,” the company said.
The FDA urged consumers in Nebraska, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania to not to eat any fresh blackberries bought from Fresh Thyme between Sept. 9 and Sept. 30.
Anyone who froze the berries for later use should throw them out, the FDA said.
Total Illnesses: 11
Last illness onset: Nov. 5, 2019
States with Cases: NE, WI, IN
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver and can cause mild, flu-like symptoms for several weeks.
A hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. In rare cases, particularly for people with a pre-existing health condition or people with weakened immune systems, hepatitis A infections can progress to liver failure and death, according to the FDA.
General Food Safety Tips for Consumers
People should consult their healthcare provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble a Hepatitis A infection.
Consumers should follow these steps for preventing foodborne illness:
- Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
- Wash and sanitize surfaces used to serve or store potentially contaminated products.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
Who to Contact
Consumers who have symptoms should contact their health care provider to report their symptoms and receive care.
To report a complaint or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction), you can
- Call an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator if you wish to speak directly to a person about your problem.
- Complete an electronic Voluntary MedWatch form online.
- Complete a paper Voluntary MedWatch form that can be mailed to FDA.
Visit www.fda.gov/fcic for additional consumer and industry assistance.