Lawsuit filed over hepatitis A outbreak linked to berries

Health officials warned consumers in 11 states earlier this month against eating some berries

LINCOLN, Neb. — An Omaha woman who contracted hepatitis A after eating blackberries she bought at a Fresh Thyme grocery store has sued the company.

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The woman who filed the lawsuit Wednesday, Kerrie Tabaka, said she was hospitalized for a week for treatment of hepatitis A and continues to experience fatigue and other symptoms.

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Earlier this month, health officials warned consumers in 11 states against eating some berries bought from the Fresh Thyme chain. Federal and state health officials have confirmed 14 cases of hepatitis A, including six in Nebraska, as part of the outbreak in Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Fresh Thyme officials didn’t immediately respond to the lawsuit filed Wednesday. The company has said it is cooperating with investigators to identify the source of the contamination.

OFFICIALS: MULTISTATE HEPATITIS A CASES TRACED TO BERRIES

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver and can cause mild, flu-like symptoms for several weeks. According to the World Health Organization, a small proportion of people infected with the virus could die from fulminant hepatitis.

A Fresh Thyme store in Omaha, Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

“Hepatitis A in berries has been generally a problem with imports,” said Tabaka’s lawyer, Bill Marler. “We look forward to getting to the bottom of where these berries were grown and processed and how this potentially deadly pathogen contaminated the berries.”

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The Food and Drug Administration last week urged consumers in Nebraska, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania to not to eat any fresh blackberries bought from Fresh Thyme between Sept. 9 and Sept. 30.

Anyone who froze the berries for later use should throw them out, the FDA said.