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Published On: Wed, Apr 17th, 2013

Hepatitis A outbreak in northern Europe likely due to contaminated frozen berries: ECDC

A multicountry hepatitis A outbreak that has affected dozens in the Nordic countries of northern Europe is likely due to frozen berries, according to a European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) report released April 15.

sliced strawberries

Public domain image/Yuyudevil via Wikimedia Commons

The outbreak has been confirmed in 16 cases, with at least 40 other suspected cases not yet confirmed in the countries of  Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. This outbreak covers the period of October 1, 2012 to April 8, 2013.

The report notes that the investigation reveals that none of the cases have a travel history outside the EU within their period of potential exposure, with exposure currently taking place in the EU.

The epidemiology investigation points to foodborne transmission originating from a persistant common soutce, likely frozen berries. Laboratory analysis, interviews and purchasing history is pending.

Among the confirmed cases, 75 percent are female and 25 percent are male. Victims range in age from 4 to 62 years old, with a median age of 30.5.

Health authorities in the affected countries are advising that consumers boil all frozen or imported berries before consumption.

Closely related Hepatitis A sequences (99% and 98.7%) were previously identified in Canada, France and the Netherlands in travelers returning from Egypt, according to the report.

Last fall, some 11,000 German schoolchildren were sickened with norovirus  linked to Chinese strawberries.

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”.

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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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