Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it is investigating a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A connected to non-organic blackberries purchased at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores.
The FDA said there have so far been 11 cases of the virus with six hospitalizations in Indiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin connected to the consumption of non-organic blackberries purchased from Fresh Thyme stores. However, a distribution center that ships the berries for the supermarket chain delivers the produce to 11 states, including Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania on top of the three states with confirmed cases of the disease.
"As this investigation continues, the FDA will work with our federal and state partners to obtain additional information during the traceback investigation and will update this advisory as more information becomes available," said the FDA, which is conducting the investigation along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FDA said it is urging consumers to not eat any conventional blackberries purchased from Sept. 9 to Sept. 30 from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in the 11 states.
"People who purchased the fresh blackberries and then froze those berries for later consumption should not eat these berries," the FDA said. "They should be thrown away."
Anyone who has not been vaccinated and consumed the berries in question within the past two weeks should consult with a healthcare professional, the administration said.
Fresh Thyme said in an emailed statement that it is working with the agencies to identify its suppliers and "isolate the source of this contamination."
The CDC said the first case was reported on Oct. 15 and the most recent was on Nov. 6.
Of the nearly dozen cases of illness connected to the berries, six occurred in Nebraska. Four of them were hospitalized.
"Our goal is to protect Nebraskans, pinpoint the source of the illness and make sure the risk is eliminated," said Dr. Tom Safanek, state epidemiologist for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. "We sent an advisory to health care providers alerting them of the increased number of hepatitis A cases in early November. Public health officials have also been conducting interviews with Nebraskans who contracted the illness to help determine the cause."
Hepatitis A is a liver infection that is caused by a virus transmitted through sex, the consumption of contaminated food or water or through coming into close contact with someone who is ill with the virus. Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice, the CDC said.