New Zealand’s hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported frozen berries continues to grow.
Since late June, 21 people have contracted hepatitis A from eating frozen berries. 17 people have been linked by genetic sequencing, which means they were likely exposed to the same source of the virus. Nine people have been hospitalized. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) was notified by the Ministry of Health of three cases of hepatitis A in September.
All patients reported consumption of undercooked imported frozen berries.
Foodstuffs Own Brands has recalled various Pams brand frozen berry products because they may be linked to cases of hepatitis A. Products have been withdrawn from New World, Pak’n Save and Four Square stores nationwide, as well as Trents and Raeward Fresh stores in the South Island.
All batches and dates of Pams Brand Mixed Berry 500-g, Two Berry Mixes 1kg and 750g, Smoothie Berry Mix 500g, Raspberries 500g and 350g.
New Zealand is heading towards the summer months that may consume more frozen berries.
Suspected berries from Serbia
New Zealand virus and 2020 A genetic match to the virus causing disease in Sweden in 2021. The incident was linked to frozen berries from Serbia. The product recalled in New Zealand contains berries from Serbia.
Environmental Science Research (ESR) product testing has not identified any Hepatitis A virus.
Other frozen berry importers have suspended products traceable to Serbia while the investigation continues.
Hepatitis A virus can be inactivated by heating above 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit) for one minute. Washing frozen berries will not destroy the virus.
Viruses are spread when someone ingests the virus through close contact with an infected person, or by eating contaminated food or drink. Symptoms include liver inflammation, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin (jaundice). The time from infection with the hepatitis A virus to onset varies from two to seven weeks, and symptoms usually last less than two months.
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