Hepatitis A cases linked to Costco’s Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend frozen berries: Health Unit offering free vaccinations

The Sudbury & District Health Unit is advising members of the public who consumed Costco’s Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend frozen berries in the last 14 days to get a hepatitis A vaccination as soon as possible. This advisory concerns any of this product that was purchased from any Costco location in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador between December 11, 2015, and April 15, 2016. It applies only to individuals who have not been previously fully vaccinated against hepatitis A. The Health Unit is holding free hepatitis A vaccine clinics for individuals affected by this advisory.

An ongoing multi-province hepatitis A outbreak investigation has been linked to Costco’s Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend frozen berries, resulting in the product being recalled from the marketplace on April 15, 2016. To date, 13 cases have been reported in Canada, 10 of which have been reported in Ontario. No cases have been reported within the Sudbury & District Health Unit service area. Additional details regarding the recall can be found on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has reported that Costco is contacting customers who purchased Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend to advise them of the recall. The Health Unit is advising the public not to eat the recalled product and to dispose of it or return it to the point of purchase.

“Anyone who ate this product within the last 14 days—and who was not previously fully vaccinated—is strongly encouraged to receive their vaccination as soon as possible,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Sudbury & District Medical Officer of Health. “It is within 14 days of consuming the product that the vaccine will be most effective in preventing disease in anyone exposed,” said Dr. Sutcliffe.

The Health Unit is also asking anyone who ate the recalled product to monitor for signs and symptoms, practise thorough handwashing and contact their health care provider if concerned. Symptoms may include fever, stomach pain, dark urine, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, clay or ash-coloured bowel movements, and jaundice. They can occur from 15 to 50 days following exposure, but usually occur within 28 to 30 days.

Further, anyone who ate the recalled product within the last 50 days and is a food handler or works with vulnerable populations should call the Health Unit for more information.

Food premises who might have purchased the recalled product for service to the public are asked to contact the Sudbury & District Health Unit. Food premises outside of the Health Unit’s service area are advised to contact their local public health unit.

Free drop-in vaccination clinics are being held at the Health Unit’s office located at 1300 Paris Street, Sudbury. The Health Unit will monitor the response to this advisory and update its website with clinic times.

Vaccination clinics this week (drop-in):

  • Tuesday (April 19) 1 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday (April 20) from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Thursday and Friday (April 21 and 22) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Vaccine is also available through the Health Unit’s offices located in Espanola, Mindemoya and Chapleau or by contacting your health care provider. Vaccine may also be available through Costco and store locations should be contacted directly for details.

If you are concerned that you may have acquired hepatitis A or have questions about this advisory, contact the Health Unit at 705.522.9200 or toll-free at 1.866.522.9200, or speak with your primary care provider as soon as possible. People who live outside of the Sudbury & District Health Unit’s service area are encouraged to contact their local public health unit.

Background

Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause a liver infection. Symptoms can last a few days to several months. The virus is rarely fatal and most people develop lifetime immunity following infection. Hepatitis A can be serious, however, especially for older people and those with chronic liver disease. For these individuals, there is a greater risk of hospitalization and death.

This virus is transmitted from person-to-person by the fecal-oral route. It is found in feces of a person infected with the virus and one common route of exposure is food contaminated by infected food handlers. This can occur by directly handling already cooked or ready-to-eat foods with unclean bare hands or through food contact with dirty gloves.

Hepatitis A can be avoided by:

  • Not handling or preparing food for anyone if you are ill.
  • Washing your hands often and thoroughly using soap and water. This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food.
  • If wearing gloves, change them often. Gloves cannot be washed and reused.
  • Avoid sharing common items such as cups and finger foods (for example popcorn).
  • Always wash fresh fruit and vegetables such as strawberries and lettuce.

This item was last modified on April 19, 2016