99 sickened in 8 states – so far!

Last week Erin Ivie of the Mercury News reported that the frozen berries from Costco recently linked to hepatitis A cases continued to cause problems this week, when Target stores in Hayward and San Leandro alerted some customers that prescriptions were filled by a technician who may have contracted the disease after eating the berries.  The pharmacy employee, who wasn’t identified, was hospitalized with the only reported case of hepatitis A in Alameda County linked to the Townsend Farms berries, and has since been treated and released, said Sherri Willis, spokeswoman for the Alameda County Public Health Department.  Hepatitis A vaccines were recommended and offered by local health departments and Target.

Now today, Lynne Terry of the Oregonian reports that a restaurant in Ashland, just blocks from the hub of the Shakespeare Festival, served food that could have been contaminated with hepatitis A as recently as this past Wednesday.  Oregon health officials said Evo’s Coffee Lounge was using Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend in its Radically Free smoothie, potentially contaminating customers.  “They were still using the product when the FDA called them on Wednesday,” said William Keene, senior epidemiologist with the Oregon Public Health Division. “So people may have been exposed as recently as this past week.”  Hepatitis A vaccines are recommended and offered by local health departments.

Both of these instances show the difficulty in stopping an outbreak of hepatitis A before it spreads beyond individual consumers of the frozen product.

For those who consume it, like the Target pharmacist, there is the possibility of spreading the virus to both close friends and family or customers that they might come in contact with, and if those people become ill the virus can spread farther still.

In addition, for those consumers like Evo’s Coffee Lounge, who appear not to have heard (or paid attention to) the recall, the product continues to potentially spread its nasty cargo.  This is especially true for a product like Townsend’s frozen berries that can slip into the back of the freezer only to be ready to unload another round of hepatitis A illnesses later.