Hepatitis A is in the News due to Raw Tuna Fish

In the last couple of months, more and more cases of Hepatitis A were in the news. In the most recent recall, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled frozen tuna steaks and cubes, after finding out that some tuna sold in California, Texas, and Oklahoma had been contaminated with hepatitis A.

The Raw Tuna Recall History

On May 1 the Hawaii Department of Health has alerted the FDA, that a sample of frozen tuna cubes originating in Indonesia tested positive for hepatitis A.  Next day, the FDA contacted the Tropic Fish Hawaii LLC, a subsidiary distributor of Hilo Fish Company, to acquire additional information related to the tuna sample contaminated with Hepatitis A.

The initial FDA recall started on May 18, when Hilo Fish Company began recalling tuna obtained from Sustainable Seafood Company and Santa Cruz Seafood, Inc.   The recall targeted the products tested positive for hepatitis.

On June 6 a revised recall was issued by the FDA, due to a report from the Hawaii Department of Health, notifying that a frozen tuna sample, sourced from PT Deho Canning Co. was positive for the virus. Since then the initially recalled product has been removed from commerce and the newly recalled frozen tuna lots were not shipped to Hawaii but were shipped to the mainland U.S.

Hilo Fish submitted additional samples from products that were held in their cold storage facility which was sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company and Santa Cruz Seafood and sent to a testing lab. The products were positive for Hepatitis A. These products were distributed to retailers in CA, NY, OK, and TX. The New York State Department of Health and the FDA verified that the product shipped to New York was not sold to the public.

The FDA has provided a list of restaurants and other retail establishments in TX, OK, and CA that may currently have contaminated tuna.

Recall Consequences

While only a few retailers are on the distribution list of the recalled products, the list does include an outpost warehouse of SYSCO, a large food service distributor. The warehouse delivers products to a large number of restaurants and retailers.

The FDA instructs affected restaurants and retailers to ensure that the recalled products are not served to customers. The restaurants or retailers must contact their local health department if they served contaminated products. They also are required, if possible, to notify their consumers about possible exposure to the hepatitis A virus.

About Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that is highly contagious. It causes an inflammation of the liver and affects the liver functioning. Its severity can range from mild illnesses lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting for months. When a person ingests the virus from contaminated food or water, the virus can be easily spread person to person.

It may take 15 to 50 days after consuming a contaminated food or drink until symptoms appear. Vaccines are available and are recommended for people mostly at risk. The CDC recommends providing post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for unvaccinated people who consumed any product that is potentially contaminated. However, the vaccination must happen in a 2 weeks window, following the exposure.

Other Outbreaks

Michigan sees large spike in Hepatitis A

A large increase in Hepatitis A cases has been observed in Michigan in recent months. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services,this increase is most visible in the city of Detroit, and counties of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne.

Michigan reported 107 cases of lab-confirmed Hepatitis A in those jurisdictions from Aug. 1, 2016, to March 21, 2017. “This represents an eight-fold increase during the same time last year,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services. “Ages of the cases range from 22 to 86 years, with an average age of 45 years. Eighty-five percent of the cases have been hospitalized with two deaths reported.”

San Diego Hepatitis A Outbreak, 2017

County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency reported that since early 2017 it is investigating a local Hepatitis A outbreak.  As of June 6, there has been a total of 152 cases, with 177 cases of hospitalization and 4 deaths.  The investigation is challenging because of the long incubation period of the disease (15 to 50 days) and the difficulty in contacting many sick individuals who are homeless and/or illicit drug users. No common source of food, beverage, or other cause has been identified.

Hepatitis A found in poke served at Times Supermarkets and Hawaii restaurants

Frozen raw ahi fish, imported from Indonesia, and distributed by Tropic Fish Hawaii, LLC, has been found to be contaminated with Hepatitis A. The product was distributed by Tropic Fish Hawaii, LLC, and was used to prepare poke sold at several Times Supermarket locations, GP Hawaiian Food Catering and the Crab Shack Kapolei between April 27 and May 1.

Hepatitis A from Frozen Berries in EU

Bill Marler reported in April that at least 71 people got sick due to Hepatitis A in Europe, according to the Eurosurveillance . The outbreak was linked to frozen berries served in smoothies.

There are at least 35 people sickened in Denmark, and another 36 sickened between Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Swedish authorities say that the country is experiencing ten times the normal number of Hepatitis A cases so far this year.

Frozen Berries Recalled in Australia after Hepatitis A Outbreak

On June 2, 2017, the Food Poisoning Journal reported that frozen berries sold in Australia in independent supermarkets had been recalled due to Hepatitis A.  Berries from Canada and China were packed in Australia.

This outbreak comes 2 years after Hepatitis A caused 25 instances of Hepatitis A infection were linked to frozen berries from the same vendor.

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