Costco berry recall and hepatitis A: What you need to know

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is investigating hepatitis A infections linked to the recently recalled Nature's Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend, a frozen fruit product sold at Costco stores. 

Here are some answers to questions about the product, the recall and hepatitis A: 

Where and when was the product sold?

At Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, between Dec. 11, 2015, and April 15, 2016, according to federal health officials

Costco Canada has said it also gave out free samples in some locations.

What should I do?

Check your home for any Nature's Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend, and do not consume the product.

"Secure the product in a plastic bag, throw it out and wash your hands with warm soapy water," PHAC says. "If you are unsure whether a frozen fruit product you have in your home is part of the food recall warning, do not consume it."

See your health-care provider if you suspect you've been exposed to the recalled product, even if you tasted any samples, or have hepatitis A symptoms. Vaccination is recommended within two weeks of exposure. 

What is hepatitis A?

It's one of the three hepatitis viruses that can affect the liver — the others are hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis A is transmitted by ingesting contaminated food and water, or through contact with an infected person. 

 The World Health Organization says almost everyone recovers fully from hepatitis A, and "very small proportions die from fulminant [sudden and severe] hepatitis. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not cause chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal, but it can cause debilitating symptoms and acute liver failure if not treated, the WHO adds.

Some people with hepatitis A may not be symptomatic, but can still transmit the illness by serving food or drinks, PHAC says. 

In most people, symptoms appear two to seven weeks after infection and can include:

  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
  • Dark urine.
  • Fatigue. 

"Symptoms are usually mild, and the illness usually lasts one to two weeks," the agency says. "Although severe cases can last several months, most people recover without treatment. It is rare for healthy adults to die from hepatitis A, and the illness does not become chronic."

How many hepatitis A cases relate to this outbreak?

As of April 22, 11 cases related to this recall were found — eight in Ontario, two in Quebec, and one in Newfoundland and Labrador, PHAC says.

How do I get a hepatitis A vaccination?

Contact your health-care provider, your local public health department or your local Costco pharmacy. Costco is offering free vaccinations for anyone affected by the recall. 

What if I've already been vaccinated?

PHAC says the vaccination provides "lifetime immunity," so Canadians who've already had the shot don't need to get another one. 

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