HEPATITIS A CASES POTENTIALLY LINKED TO FROZEN BERRIES

Hepatitis ACT has learned of recent concerns about a small number of cases nationally of hepatitis A apparently linked to a batch of frozen berries. At the time of writing there has been three cases reported (one in each of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia).

Entyce Food Ingredients has recalled their 300g ‘Creative Gourmet Mix Berries’ (batch code PP150118 with an expiry date of January 2021), a product sold in Australia at independent outlets such as IGA, Foodworks, Foodland, SPAR and Superbarn. This batch is no longer on the shelves at shops, should not be consumed, and should be discarded or returned to its place of purchase for a refund.

If you have consumed this product:

· The risk of infection is low

· See your doctor if you feel sick

· Be vigilant about handwashing for seven weeks

· Any previous hepatitis A vaccination or previous infection will mean you are likely immune.

Whilst highly contagious through faecal-oral contamination, hepatitis A is a short term infection that is rarely fatal. The likelihood of severe complications are much greater for people with pre-existing liver damage such as that associated with long-term hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection. Management involves rest, a sympathetic diet, abstinence from alcohol, the prevention of onward transmission, and occasionally hospitalisation.

Hepatitis ACT takes this opportunity to stress that hepatitis A is vaccine preventable. Pregnant women should delay vaccination until after pregnancy unless there is a substantial risk of exposure. Household or intimate contacts of someone with hepatitis A should receive hepatitis A immunoglobulin within two weeks of exposure. Vaccination is recommended for:

· Travelers to endemic regions

· Plumbers and sewerage workers

· Men who have sex with men

· People who inject drugs

· People living with chronic liver conditions

· People living with bleeding disorders

· People living and/or working in rural and remote Indigenous communities.

An unintended downside of the intense media interest in what is a very small number of hepatitis A infections is that community, public health and media focus is diverted from far more serious, life-threatening and relatively overlooked epidemics such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C. These are not transmitted through food and together they affect around 440,000 Australians of whom an estimated 130,000 are undiagnosed and only a small percentage are receiving anti-viral treatment or guideline-based care.

People seeking further information about hepatitis A, hepatitis B or hepatitis C should contact their doctor or Hepatitis ACT on (02) 6230 6344 or at www.hepatitisACT.com.au