The hepatitis A outbreak linked to a brand of berries sold at Costco stores is now impacting Target customers.
The Alameda County Public Health department on Wednesday that a case of hepatitis A involved a woman who worked as a pharmacist for Target at its San Leandro and Hayward stores. And now, Target said it is reaching out to all pharmacy customers whose prescriptions were potentially impacted.
"We are currently in the process of notifying impacted guests who had prescriptions filled at our San Leandro or Hayward store locations during the period of May 5 through May 26 via phone, traditional mail and email," the Target statement read.
Target said if a customer didn't get a call or email, then their medicines are safe.
Customer Ernest Rivera told NBC Bay Area that he got a phone call Tuesday informing him his medications may have been contaminated. "I thought I'd better get down there," Rivera said. He said he's worried. He said he was surprised there wasn't a long line of people trying to exchange their prescriptions.
Health officials said the risk is small. “Transmission of Hepatitis A through medication handling would be unusual and the risk of potential exposure to Hepatitis A is low,” Alameda County Public Health Director Dr. Muntu Davis remarked.
Thorough hand washing greatly reduces the chances of spreading hepatitis A.
"Guests who have been contacted by Target should discontinue use immediately and return any unused medication to their Target pharmacy so that it may be properly disposed of. Target will supply those guests with a replacement prescription as prescribed by their physician at no charge," Target said.
Target is also encouraging customers who received medicine from the sick pharmacist to call their doctors. Customers can also contact Guest Relations at 877-RX-TARGET (877-798-2743) with questions.
Other Bay Area cases include a 22-year-old woman in Santa Clara County and a 62-year-old woman in East Contra Costa County.
The Santa Clara County Public Health department said Tuesday the 22-year-old woman was hospitalized in late May after she became ill with hepatitis A. She had consumed the frozen berry blend that was purchased from Costco. She has since been released from the hospital and is recovering well, county officials said.
Health officials in Contra Costa County wouldn't say more about their case, only that the person has been treated and released from the hospital.
The virus was believed to be linked to Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend. Costco has removed the product from its shelves, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Attorney Bill Gaar, representing Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., told the Associated Press that investigators appeared to be focusing on imported pomegranate seeds in the product.
The department has recommended anyone with the product at their home should throw it away. Anyone who has consumed the fruit mix in the last 14 days should contact their doctor, said the agency's director, Dr. Ron Chapman.
Symptoms of hepatitis A can show up between two and six weeks after consuming the product. Common symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and yellowing of the skin and white parts of eyes (jaundice), according to health officials.
The potentially severe illness can last up to several months and can require hospitalization.
The illnesses have been reported since the end of April in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.