Quick Response By State Officials Contains Hepatitis A Outbreak

Officials say today at least 14 people have contracted the usually non-fatal liver disease since late August, and in recent days a 67-year- old man has died.

LANSING, Mich., April 3 — PRNewswire — Health officials in Michigan continue to address the recent outbreak of hepatitis A and its link to frozen strawberries distributed through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) school lunch program.

“We have worked aggressively with local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in identifying the source of hepatitis A in our state. The initiative of the Calhoun County Health Department in finding the link to frozen Strawberries has been outstanding,” said Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Director James K. Haveman, Jr.

“It is important to know the only food source identified as a source of hepatitis A has been frozen strawberries packaged at the Andrew & Williamson Sales Co. in San Diego. Other food items are not under suspicion in this hepatitis A outbreak,” said Michigan Department of Agriculture Director DanWyant.

The CDC has identified 13 product lots of frozen strawberries, from Andrew & Williamson, which may have been contaminated. These frozen strawberries were distributed to school districts in 28 counties in Michigan for federal school lunch programs by Total Logistics Control in Kalamazoo. These frozen strawberries were sent to schools in 30 pound containers.

“The Department of Education has been in contact with all school districts and informed them not to use the strawberries in question. As a precautionary measure, all schools in Michigan who have received frozen strawberries from Andrew & Williamson, even schools outside the 28 identified counties, are being advised not to use them,” said Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Arthur Ellis.

The frozen strawberries were also served at a Special Olympics event in Grand Rapids attended by approximately 1,400 individuals on March 22, 1997.

“The Kent County Health Department worked with the organizers of the Special Olympics event to contact families who were in attendance. We recommend any of these individuals who ate strawberries served at the event contact their physician or their local health department to receive shots of immune globulin,” said MDCH Chief Medical Executive Dr. David Johnson.

Since the beginning of March, approximately 160 cases of hepatitis A have been identified in Calhoun county. Approximately 15 additional cases have been identified in Saginaw county. Nearly all patients are students or staff of local school districts. Local, state and federal investigators working in Calhoun county found the strong association between strawberries and hepatitis Athrough epidemiological studies last week.

Initial information from federal officials indicated the suspect strawberries had only been distributed through the USDA school lunch program. However, state officials have just learned that Caramagno Foods Company, of Detroit, did receive frozen strawberries direct from Andrew & Williamson outside the school lunch program. Caramagno Foods distributed the strawberries to restaurants, wholesalers and retail locations in 6 1/2 pound plastic containers clearly labeled with the Andrew & Williamson seal from May 17, 1996, to December 31,1996.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Michigan Department of Agriculture are now in the process of contacting all commercial outlets that received these products. Invoices and product returns are tracked in order to monitor the recall efforts.

“We believe at this point, because of the distribution date, that most of thesestrawberries were consumed some time ago. We are advising anyone with Andrew &Williamson strawberries in their freezers not to eat them,” concluded Wyant.

Individuals who believe they have consumed the Andrew & Williamson frozenstrawberries within the last two weeks are urged to contact their local publichealth departments.

Hepatitis A is a virus that causes fever, malaise, loss of appetite, nausea,abdominal pain and jaundice. It is transmitted through the fecal/oral route orby consuming food or water contaminated by an infected food handler. Hepatitis Ainfection is usually a mild and self-limiting illness. It is rarely fatal andcan be prevented through immune globulin given within two weeks after exposure or by vaccination administered several weeks prior to exposure.

Immune globulin (IG) is a plasma derived product that contains antibodies against the hepatitis A virus. IG is effective only if administered within 14 days of exposure. Individuals who receive IG are protected against hepatitis Afor approximately 3 to 4 weeks. Hepatitis A vaccine is a killed virus vaccine that induces the body to create antibodies against hepatitis A. It takes several weeks for most people to develop immunity after receiving this vaccination.

“It has been extremely helpful to have sufficient quantities of immune globulin readily available from our Michigan Biologic Products Institute,” said Haveman.

 Counties Serviced by Total Logistic Control, Inc.

 Allegan         Mecosta

 Barry           Midland

 Berrien         Montcalm

 Branch          Muskegon

 Calhoun         Newaygo

 Cass            Oceana

 Clare           Osceola

 Genesee         Ottawa

 Gladwin         Saginaw

 Gratiot         St. Clair

 Isabella        St. Joseph

 Kalamazoo       Van Buren

 Kent

 Lake

 Lapeer

 Mason




 Strawberry Lot Numbers 4141961

 6541963

 6541964

 7741962

 7741963

 31507612

 3150862

 3150863

 31508612

 7750862

 7750863

 7750864

 7750865

Source: PR Newswire

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