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Published On: Mon, Sep 9th, 2013

Ireland health officials advise public to boil all imported frozen berries due to hepatitis A outbreak

In a follow up to a story in July, The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) yesterday reiterated its advice to consumers to boil all imported frozen berries for at least one minute prior to consumption as it continues its investigation into a food poisoning outbreak of hepatitis A virus.

The outbreak has affected 15 people in Ireland to date.

Image/CIA

Image/CIA

Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI said Sunday, “The first indications of this outbreak emerged when cases of hepatitis A were identified to have the same strain of the virus as that causing an outbreak in Italy. As the Italian authorities had detected the virus in samples of frozen mixed berry products imported from a number of different countries, the Irish investigation has focused on imported frozen berries.

“Since the outbreak was identified, a small number of new cases have been reported and it would be prudent for consumers to continue to boil these berries until further notice. Investigations suggest it is unlikely that fresh Irish or fresh imported berries are a cause of the outbreak. However, we suggest that – as with all other fruit and vegetables – fresh berries should be washed thoroughly if they are being eaten uncooked.”

The investigation is focused on tracking and tracing the foods that those infected with the virus say they have eaten and cross referencing this information with similar investigations in Italy. However, because of the long incubation period of hepatitis A, where illness can arise up to 50 days after exposure to the virus, the food histories obtained for patients over that long period do not have sufficient detail to enable the authorities to identify specific batches of imported frozen berries and this coupled with the complexity of the global frozen fruit distribution chain has hindered identification of the source of the outbreak.

Prof. Reilly explained that “the authorities are working hard to identify the source of the outbreak but it is so difficult for people to remember exactly what they ate with any degree of accuracy over the 50 day period in which they might have been infected and this makes it hard to pinpoint a suspect food or batch of food”.

Hepatitis A is a disease that can be relatively mild, lasting 1-2 weeks, or more, severe lasting months.  Severity of symptoms tends to increase with age. The most common symptoms are fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and abdominal pain, followed within a few days by jaundice. The incubation period (time from exposure to onset of illness) ranges from 15 to 50 days, the average being 28 days.

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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 Outbreak News This Week Radio Show on http://1380thebiz.com/ Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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