Lake Louise resort food handler exposes patrons to hepatitis A

I visited Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta (that’s in Canada) a couple of years ago and came away thinking it would be a great place to be a stoner ski bum. A beautiful spot with lots of vacationing folks, seasonal workers and decent food and bars. And hepatitis A exposure.

According to the Penticton Herald, a hot drink food handler at the Lake Louise ski resort’s Powderkeg Lounge has the virus.556596_10152080652605367_1991479126_n

Health officials say customers who ate or drank hot beverages at the Powderkeg Lounge in Lake Louise between Nov. 6 and Nov. 8 may have been exposed.

The health agency says patrons who consumed cold beverages are not at risk of exposure and do not need a vaccine.

Clinics are being held in Calgary and Banff in the next couple of days — the vaccine is only effective if administered within two weeks of exposure.

“While we believe the risk to the public is low, hepatitis A is a serious infection,” Dr. Judy MacDonald, medical health officer for the Calgary zone, said in a release Thursday.

Lake Louise is about to host World Cup men’s and women’s downhill ski races. The men arrive early next week for training runs ahead of races Nov. 28-29. The women compete Dec. 4-6.

Trust is proven, not with soundbites: Hep A in Aust. berries

We eat a lot of frozen berries. But our protocol is microwave them (boiling) for at least 2 minutes and then cool in the fridge overnight.

FROZEN BERRIES RECALLIt seems complicated, but better than faith-based food safety.

Patties Foods is still feeling the impact of its mass recall of frozen berries amid a hepatitis A scare earlier this year.

The savoury pies and frozen desserts supplier says sales of frozen berries are slowly recovering, but the recall is still hurting its bottom line.

Patties chairman Mark Smith told shareholders that the company’s first half profit is expected to fall to between $7 million and $7.5 million, from $8.2 million in the prior corresponding period.

The company has provided no details on its food safety arrangements.

‘We strongly advise you not to Google search ‘Hepatitis A’ as you may access inaccurate and possibly worrying information.’

I play hockey with a bunch of technology nerds and last night’s post game dressing room chatter included a discussion on recalled emails. Instead of the intended message of ‘oh, I made a mistake, don’t read that last one,’ it leads to increased attention and urgency in reading the recalled message to see what the sender didn’t want you to see.

Sort of like telling someone not to Google something likely leads to that person immediately Googling it.yorkshire-puddings

That’s what a school in the UK did in an effort to reduce panic after 20 cases of hepatitis A was identified in a couple of schools, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

An outbreak of Hepatitis A in two Leeds schools has seen national health chiefs offer mass vaccinations in the LS9 area.

Public Health England (PHE) stepped in after around 20 cases of the rare virus were confirmed in the area, sparking a vaccination program that will impact thousands of school staff and residents.

The YEP understands that the 630-pupil Richmond Hill Primary School, in Clark Lane, and 460-pupil Brownhill Primary Academy, in Torre Drive, are the two schools where all staff and pupils are being immunized.

A message put out to parents at Richmond Hill Primary School urges them not to “panic” over the situation. It reads: “We strongly advise you not to Google search ‘Hepatitis A’ as you may access inaccurate and possibly worrying information.”

PHE is working with Leeds City Council and the NHS in Leeds to vaccinate those most likely to have come into contact with the carriers. Around 300 people have taken up the vaccine when offered so far, and PHE is stressing that anyone who has not yet been offered the vaccination does not need it at the current time.

There were only 367 reported cases of Hepatitis A infection in England and Wales during 2010.

I Googled hepatitis A and found some good information sources.

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Origin of hepatitis A virus decoded

Hepatitis A virus – like HIV or Ebola as well – is likely of animal origin, according to a new large-scale study with nearly 16,000 specimens from small mammals from various continents.

hedgehogHepatitis A virus, which is found worldwide, has previously been considered to be a purely human pathogen which at most is found in isolated cases in non-human primates.

An infection with the hepatitis A virus can trigger acute inflammation of the liver which generally does not cause any symptoms in children and resolves without major complications.

“In tropical regions, nearly all young children are infected with the hepatitis A virus and from that time on, they are immune to this disease,” said Jan Felix Drexler from the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Centre and the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF).

By contrast, if adults become infected with the hepatitis A virus, the symptoms can be more serious, and the disease can even have a fatal outcome.

The virus has been found to date only in humans and a few non-human primates. Its origins were unknown.

Virologists from the University of Bonn Hospital, together with their colleagues, searched for viruses related to the hepatitis A virus.

They studied a total of 15,987 specimens from 209 different species of small mammals – from rodents to shrews and bats to hedgehogs.
Viruses from these mammals are very similar to the human hepatitis A virus with regard to their genetic properties, protein structures, immune response and patterns of infection.

“The seemingly purely human virus is thus most likely of animal origin,” said Drexler.

The findings may even hint at distant ancestry of the hepatitis A virus in primordial insect viruses.

“It is possible that insect viruses infected insect-eating small mammals millions of years ago and that these viruses then developed into the precursors of the hepatitis A virus,” Drexler said.

The researchers assume that small mammals were important hosts for the preservation and evolution of the viruses.

“Otherwise the hepatitis A virus would actually have gone extinct long ago in small human populations due to the lifelong immunity of the persons once infected with it,” Drexler said.

“However, patients need not fear that they could contract a hepatitis A virus infection through bats or hedgehogs,” he said.

“It has likely been a very long time since humans first contracted the hepatitis A precursor virus from animals – moreover, such incidents are very rare,” he added.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Foodborne viruses in fresh produce

Norovirus (NoV) and hepatitis A virus (HAV) are the most important foodborne viruses. Fresh produce has been identified as an important vehicle for their transmission.

foodborne.virus.produceIn order to supply a basis to identify possible prevention and control strategies, this review intends to demonstrate the fate of foodborne viruses in the farm to fork chain of fresh produce, which include the introduction routes (contamination sources), the viral survival abilities at different stages, and the reactions of foodborne viruses towards the treatments used in food processing of fresh produce. In general, the preharvest contamination comes mainly from soli fertilizer or irrigation water, while the harvest and postharvest contaminations come mainly from food handlers, which can be both symptomatic and asymptomatic. Foodborne viruses show high stabilities in all the stages of fresh produce production and processing. Low-temperature storage and other currently used preservation techniques, as well as washing by water have shown limited added value for reducing the virus load on fresh produce. Chemical sanitizers, although with limitations, are strongly recommended to be applied in the wash water in order to minimize cross-contamination. Alternatively, radiation strategies have shown promising inactivating effects on foodborne viruses. For high-pressure processing and thermal treatment, efforts have to be made on setting up treatment parameters to induce sufficient viral inactivation within a food matrix and to protect the sensory and nutritional qualities of fresh produce to the largest extent.

Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety

Dan Li, Ann De Keuckelaere and Mieke Uyttendaele

Vaccines work: More than 3700 people vaccinated after possible Hardee’s Hepatitis A exposure in SC

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says it has provided 3,706 vaccinations through its hepatitis A vaccine clinics in Spartanburg and Greenville.

hardee'sThey say vaccinations are being offered to individuals who might have been exposed to hepatitis A at two Hardee’s restaurants located in Spartanburg County.

The restaurants are located at:

12209 Greenville Highway in Lyman

1397 E. Main St. in Duncan.

DHEC’s Spartanburg and Greenville county health departments will continue to provide post-exposure treatments Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., through September 29, 2015.

We’re just hosts on a viral planet: Hepatitis A in seals version

Scientists in the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health have discovered a new virus in seals that is the closest known relative of the human hepatitis A virus. The finding provides new clues on the emergence of hepatitis A. The research appears in the July/August issue of mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

seal.ball“Until now, we didn’t know that hepatitis A had any close relatives, and we thought that only humans and other primates could be infected by such viruses,” said lead author Simon Anthony, assistant professor of Epidemiology. “Our findings show that these so-called ‘hepatoviruses’ are not in fact restricted to primates, and suggest that many more may also exist in other wildlife species.”

Hepatitis A viral infection, which impacts 1.4 million people worldwide annually, can cause mild to severe illness. It is a highly contagious disease that is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or through consumption of food or water. “Our data suggest that hepatitis A and this new virus share a common ancestor, which means that a spillover event must have occurred at some point in the past,” said Anthony. “It raises the question of whether hepatitis A originated in animals, like many other viruses that are now adapted to humans.”

The researchers discovered the new virus while investigating a deadly strain of avian influenza that killed over 150 harbor seals off the coast of New England in 2011. In an effort to determine what viruses might co-occur with influenza, researchers performed deep sequencing of all the viruses present in three of the marine mammals. They discovered a new virus that was genetically similar to hepatitis A and named it phopivirus. An analysis of additional animals living off the coast of New England (29 harbor seals, 6 harp seals and 2 grey seals) identified phopivirus in 7 more animals. The researchers say the virus appears to be fairly common in seals based on the juvenile animals examined for their study, and so far there is no evidence that it causes them any harm. However, they caution that further research is needed in mature seals, because if it acts anything like hepatitis A it might only cause disease in adults.

In the natural history of phopivirus and hepatitis A, it is unclear whether a common ancestor (virus) spilled over from humans to seals, vice versa, or from a third unrelated host that has not yet been identified. However various factors, including the fact that the virus was found in different species of seals, suggest that the virus has been present in seals for a fairly long time. The researchers next plan to look at species that have close interactions with seals to see if they can find other wildlife reservoirs of hepatitis A-like viruses. “Coyotes regularly scavenge dead seals along the coast, so it would be very interesting to examine coyotes to see if they have any similar viruses,” said Katie Pugliares, a senior biologist at the New England Aquarium in Boston who was also involved in the study. Another project might study humans who eat seal meat to see if the seal virus has ever spilled over.

The vast majority of emerging infectious diseases in humans have origins in wildlife. In recent years, scientists in the Center for Infection and Immunity led by Simon Anthony have been working with partners at the EcoHealth Alliance, University of California Davis, and others under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development’s PREDICT program to identify potential zoonotic viral threats to human health. “Our goal”, said W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology, is “to try to understand drivers of infectious disease emergence thereby enhancing pandemic preparedness.”

But we still made money: Frozen berries recall costs Patties Foods

The Nanna’s frozen berries Hepatitis A scare and subsequent recall has caused Patties Foods to log a headline profit decline of almost 90 per cent.

frozen-berriesPatties Foods, the supplier of the product, today posted a net profit of $2.1m for the twelve months to the end of June, an 87 per cent decline on the prior year’s $16.7m.

On an underlying basis, excluding one-off items, net profit after tax came in at $15.4m for the year, compared with the firm’s guidance of $15m.

A string of Hepatitis A cases in New South Wales and Victoria earlier this year sparked the product recall as health officials blamed the Nanna’s brand 1kg mixed berries which Patties manufactures. The company reportedly sourced strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries from China.

“The frozen berries recall had a significant impact and was the primary reason for the approximate $14.6m reduction in net profit,” chairman Mark Smith said. The direct costs of the recall, the non-cash impairment of the frozen fruits business cost $13.6m before tax.

“However, it is important to note that total company revenue grew by 3.7 per cent despite the effects of the frozen berries recall, which indicated that the savoury business performed solidly with all core brands growing revenue and profit,” Mr Smith said.

Revenue for the group rose to $257m, up from the prior year’s $248m.

My frozen berries are now all boiled for a minute, linked to thousands of sickness in EU over past decade

Frozen berries have been linked to 26 cases of food contamination in the European Union in the past nine years.

frozen.strawberryHepatitis A, norovirus (a type of viral gastroenteritis) and Shigella sonnei (a type of dysentery) infections were identified as the main threat from the berries.

That’s according to a review released last week, which showed there had been 32 independent outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated frozen berries in the EU between 1983 and 2013, with more than 15,000 cases of norovirus reported.

It comes after Australian food processor Patties Foods recalled some of its frozen berries — which it imports from China — when 34 cases of Hepatitis A were linked to the products in February.

The Weekly Times revealed in March Australia had suffered dozens of its own food safety scandals in the past decade — mostly linked to contaminated fruit.

Frozen berries, how I used to love you, and now I cook you

Epidemiological investigations of outbreaks of hepatitis A virus (HAV) and norovirus (NoV) infections in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) in the last five years have highlighted frozen berries as a vehicle of infection.

frozen.strawberry-300x225Given the increasing berry consumption in the EU over the last decades, we undertook a review of the existing evidence to assess the potential scale of threat associated with this product. We searched the literature and four restricted-access online platforms for outbreak/contamination events associated with consumption of frozen berries. We performed an evaluation of the sources to identify areas for improvement. The review revealed 32 independent events (i.e. outbreak, food contamination) in the period 1983–2013, of which 26 were reported after 2004. The identified pathogens were NoV, HAV and Shigella sonnei. NoV was the most common and implicated in 27 events with over 15,000 cases reported. A capture–recapture analysis was performed including three overlapping sources for the period 2005–2013.

The study estimated that the event-ascertainment was 62%. Consumption of frozen berries is associated with increasing reports of NoV and HAV outbreaks and contamination events, particularly after 2003. A review of the risks associated with this product is required to inform future prevention strategies.

Better integration of the available communication platforms and databases should be sought at EU/EEA level to improve monitoring, prevention and control of food-borne-related events.

Food-borne diseases associated with frozen berries consumption: A historical perspective, European Union, 1983 to 2013

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 29, 23 July 2015

Tavoschi L, Severi E, Niskanen T, Boelaert F, Rizzi V, Liebana E, Gomes Dias J, Nichols G, Takkinen J, Coulombier D.