The number of hepatitis cases linked to frozen berries continues to grow. Seven of those cases are here in Maricopa County. They involve berries sold at Costco, a place where lots of people buy their fruit.
The health department says there are 7 confirmed cases and 3 unconfirmed cases. These stem from people eating an organic frozen berry blend that was sold at Costco stores across the country. And some, including an unknown Arizona woman, are now taking legal action against Costco and the berry producers.
"You buy organic berries especially, thinking you're being healthy, not putting yourself in danger," says consumer Rachel Frank.
Rachel Frank was just one of many in Arizona who purchased the organic berries from Costco that are now at the center of a nation-wide Hepatitis A outbreak. Luckily, Frank is OK, but others haven't been so lucky here in Arizona.
"Currently we're looking at nine," says Dr. Cara Christ with the state Health Department.
They are closely monitoring the outbreak as the numbers continue to climb.
"We're always concerned when we see them, just because we want to make sure we're making the public aware that they know what they're looking for."
The symptoms of the Hepatitis A virus are not pleasant.
"You want to look out for things like jaundice, that's like a deep yellowing color of your skin and your eyes," says Dr. Christ.
There are also issues associated with the stomach -- and Hepatitis A can spread person to person.
"You can pass it along person to person, but it's really going to be close contact, or if you are preparing food for other people and you haven't washed your hands very well."
As for Frank, she's not taking any chances. "I am going to the doctor just to get checked, just to be sure because you don't want to take that risk."
Some of the people sickened by the berries are now taking legal action.
"I started representing victims of food poisoning in the Jack in the Box Ecoli case 20 years ago," says Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who is now representing a number of people who've been sickened, including an Arizona woman.
"She was released home yesterday but she's got a long road to recovery," says Marler.
Marler says those affected by the tainted berries have a right to compensation for what they've been through.
"Frankly look at it as part of citizens standing up for their rights. There are lots of negative things about lawsuits, I understand that, but the reality is you shouldn't have a human-fecal pathogen in the bag of your frozen berries and you shouldn't get sick when you're buying organic berries to make healthy smoothies."
The Health Department is offering Hepatitis A vaccines -- they say the very young and old should get the shot, as well as those with underlying health issues.
The doctor we talked to said the best way to prevent Hepatitis A is washing your hands well with plenty of soap and water.
Related story: Frozen berries sold at Costco linked to Hepatitis A outbreak
Maricopa County Public Health offering free Hepatitis C vaccinations
Starts Monday, June 3
Clinics open 8 am to 5 pm
Locations: 1645 E Roosevelt St in Phoenix (Closed Wednesday)
635 E. Broadway in Mesa (Closed Thursday)
6666 W. Peoria Ave in Glendale (Closed Tuesday)
More information on Hepatitis A: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/a
More information on the outbreak: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Outbreaks/2013/A1b-03-31/index.html
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