Contaminated food may play a role in the rise in hepatitis A infections, according to European officials.
Clusters and outbreaks of hepatitis A virus (HAV) genotype IB with four distinct but related HAV sequences have been reported in six European countries and the United Kingdom.
More than 300 cases with identical or closely related HAV strains were identified in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Epidemiological and microbiological data to date suggest that human-to-human transmission and contaminated food are possible sources of infection, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
When several cases of infection are reported in a short period of time, possible foodborne transmission should be investigated. Increased surveillance to detect and investigate sporadic and clustered cases is critical, the ECDC said.
An outbreak of HAV genotype IB was reported in Hungary in February, with the first case in December 2021. A total of 161 cases were diagnosed, mostly males and 22 females with this strain. Some infected people were men who had sex with men, suggesting transmission through sexual contact. Several patients were hospitalized.
July, foodborne outbreak related to A restaurant in Hungary where 16 people were also infected with HAV IB. Some patients drank a cold soup made with frozen berries. This prompted the company to recall the Ardo Fruitberry blend, which was produced and packaged by the group’s subcontractors in Poland.
Countries listed in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) report sent products affected include Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Netherlands, Romania, Spain , Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In the UK, 76 cases have no identified source of infection, but epidemiological investigations indicate possible foodborne infection and human-to-human transmission. Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have nine cases of infection matching the UK strain. No clear risk factors for infection, such as travel history or consumption of berries, have been identified.
HAV is highly transmissible and highly contagious through contaminated water, food, and the fecal-oral route between close contacts. The average incubation period is 4 weeks, ranging from 2 to 6 weeks. The virus is resistant to preservation methods such as freezing.
Good hand hygiene, including thorough hand washing with soap after using the toilet and before preparing or eating food, is important in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.
When someone is Hepatitis A is spread when the virus is ingested through close contact with an infected person or through consumption of 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).
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