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Published On: Wed, Apr 16th, 2014

Europe: Hepatitis A outbreak tops 1,300 cases

The hepatitis A outbreak in Europe, initially reported as associated with travel to Italy, has grown to 1,315 cases since the beginning of 2013, according to a recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) update.

European Union Map Image/CIA

European Union Map
Image/CIA

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection have been reported by 11 Member States as potentially linked to the ongoing HAV outbreak. Of the 1,315 cases reported,  240 were confirmed outbreak cases, sharing the same sequence KF182323 at the junction VP1-2a of the viral genome.

Eight countries have reported cases with no travel history. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.

The EFSA says epidemiological, microbiological and environmental investigations indicate frozen berries as the vehicle of infection for this outbreak and suggest that it could be a single outbreak, linked to a common, continuous source in the EU/EEA. However other hypotheses cannot be excluded, such as cross contamination in a food production environment or an outbreak strain that is already widespread but has, to date, gone undetected.

Given the epidemiological and laboratory evidence of contaminated frozen berries, the risk to human health, and ongoing transmission with increasing geographical spread, affected Member States could consider implementing mitigating measures at national level. In particular, Member States could consider promoting risk communication, recommending heat treatment of frozen berries before consumption and encouraging HAV vaccination of those in contact with cases and throughout the larger community.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort. Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, may occur a few days after symptoms appear. Anyone with these symptoms should contact a health care provider. The incubation period, or time between exposure and symptoms, is typically 28 days. It is possible for hepatitis A to be active but not show symptoms for up to 7 days. Symptoms usually last one to two weeks but can last longer. Young children with hepatitis A often have no symptoms.

Hepatitis A is spread person-to-person and through a fecal-oral transmission route, and typically occurs when a person eats food or drinks a beverage contaminated by someone with the virus. The virus is not spread by coughing, sneezing or by casual contact. Severe complications from hepatitis A are rare and occur more often in people who have liver disease or a weakened immune system.

Thorough hand washing after visits to the restroom, before touching food or drink and after changing a diaper are the best way to control the spread of hepatitis A.

For more information on Hepatitis A, see the CDC’s page “Hepatitis A Information for the Public”.

 

About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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