Tagged: hepatitis A virus Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • JorgeMadrigalPons 2:13 pm on November 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Berry, , frozen berries, , hepatitis A virus, , , NOV   

    Virus Outbreaks in Europe linked with frozen berries. 

    In Europe, there have been recent concerns regarding consumption of frozen berries. Unfortunately, Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and norovirus have been linked with these nutritious and tasteful produce. Authorities and food industries have struggled with large and prolonged food-borne outbreaks.


    The most recent incident involving HAV and frozen berries lasted from 2013 to 2014. This outbreak began in May 2013, when Germany reported seven hepatitis A cases in travellers coming back from northern Italy. Subsequently, Italy declared the first national outbreak, and other European Union countries reported locally acquired and travel-related cases of HAV associated with the same problem, consumption of berries. From January 2013 to August 2014, 1,589 hepatitis A cases were reported linked with the frozen berry outbreak. 70 % of these cases were hospitalised for an average time of six days, and there were 2 deaths reported (Severi et al, 2015). Trace backs done by the European Food Safety Authority could not indicate a single point source of contamination (RASF, 2015). The frozen berry market in Europe is very complex, considering the produce can be distributed at different times in different countries. Although it is not fully certain, the main suspicious candidates to blame were Bulgarian blackberries and Polish redcurrants, since these were the most common ingredients in the different contaminated samples.

    Regarding norovirus and frozen berries, from 20 September through 5 October 2012, the largest recorded food-borne outbreak in Germany occurred. Norovirus was spotted as the causative agent. 390 schools and childcare facilities reported nearly 11,000 cases of gastroenteritis. All affected institutions had received strawberries of one lot, which lead to the identification of frozen strawberries from China as the most likely vehicle of infection. Thanks to the timely surveillance and epidemiological outbreak investigations of the correspondent authorities that detected the case within a week, more than half of the lot was prevented from reaching the consumers (Bernard et al, 2014).

    The occurrence of outbreaks associated with frozen berries has raised many concerns, especially with the growth in popularity of fruit-based products like smoothies, ice creams and yogurts. According to literature, in a period from 1998 to 2013, frozen berry contamination with norovirus caused 14,000 reported human cases in 70 outbreaks in six EU countries, namely Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden (Tavoschi et al, 2015). The European Food Safety Authority highlights the risk of contamination of berries, because this food commodity often receives no or minimal processing. Contamination and cross-contamination via equipment, water (irrigation and washing) and particularly via food handlers have been identified as the main risk factors (Tavoschi et al, 2015). Also, it is known that viruses like NOV and HAV, can resist freezing treatments and remain latent in the product, which make frozen berries a perfect source of contamination. Since there have been new outbreaks this year (norovirus in Sweden and hepatitis A in Australia), European authorities recommend to be careful when consuming frozen berries. They specially suggest to boil imported frozen berries for one minute before eating, especially if the food is going to be given to vulnerable people such as nursing home residents (FSAI, 2015).

    Severi, E., Verhoef, L., Thornton, L., Guzman-Herrador, B. R., Faber, M., Sundqvist, L., … & Tosti, M. E. (2015). Large and prolonged food-borne multistate hepatitis A outbreak in Europe associated with consumption of frozen berries, 2013 to 2014. Eurosurveillance 20, 29. Retrieved from: http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=21192

    Tavoschi, L., Severi, E., Niskanen, T., Boelaert, F., Rizzi, V., Liebana, E., … & Coulombier, D. (2015). Food-borne diseases associated with frozen berries consumption: a historical perspective, European Union, 1983 to 2013. Euro Surveill, 20, 29.

    RASFF (2015). The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, Annual Report 2014. European Commission – Health and Food Safety.

    FFSAI. (2015). Berries – Advice to boil imported frozen berries. Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Retrieved from: https://www.fsai.ie/faqs/berries_advice_to_boil_2015.html

    Bernard, H., Faber, M., Wilking, H., Haller, S., Höhle, M., Schielke, A., … & Stark, K. (2014). Large multistate outbreak of norovirus gastroenteritis associated with frozen strawberries, East Germany, 2012. Eurosurveillance, 19(8), pii-20719.

    • Jasmine Lee 5:45 pm on November 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great post, Jorge! It is frightening that enteric viruses, specifically HAV and NOV, are highly resistant to many hurdles and common processing methods, e.g. freezing and desiccation. This is quite unfortunate and worrisome as frozen and dried fruits are versatile ingredients and widely used in many recipes. Consumers typically depend on these preserved products as not many fresh fruits are in season and they are quite expensive during the winter. I agree that boiling may be the most feasible method for viral inactivation aside from commercial sterilization. Canned fruits, sauces and fillings may serve as an alternative and safe (assuming the absence of C. botulinum) source of nutrients for vulnerable groups. Another point to note is that these outbreaks highlight the importance of adherence to proper hygiene practices from farm to fork. Therefore, do you agree that more stringent regulations should be in place for controlling enteric viruses, especially for imported goods?

    • wen liao 4:14 pm on November 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is actually a really interesting post! Usually when we think about viruses and such, we think about pandemic flus and something that is airborne. However, a large amount to GI tract related disease are largely contributed to viruses. Especially for fresh produce such as vegetables and fruits, rarely do we link them to HAV contamination and infection. Comparing to bacteria, viruses are more resistant to some environmental stresses, and they their virulence stays unchanged even after freezing or other production hurdles. I am not sure if there are some developed essays that are specific in targeting these viruses, but it should definitely considered as a big public health problem.

    • NorrisHuang 4:14 pm on November 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting! It is scary to learn about this. I am a big fan of berry smoothie but I don’t think I am gonna boil the berries before blending them up as the texture/ taste may change, and also, the smoothie may become too watery. (using canned berries may be a good idea though) I wonder if there is another way of getting rid of the viruses in addition to boiling? If not, I guess it is the most effective to prevent the virus before harvesting the berries? and also, how is the viruses regulated in North America?

    • EmilyLi 6:48 pm on November 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think this is a great story. Frozen food are processed and kept at low temperatures (at least below zero degree Celsius). With that reason, many people have the mind set that many of the microorganisms that may cause illness would not be present in the food. Like many people, I wouldn’t give a second thought about consuming my frozen fruits. I like how this instance will bring awareness that ready to eat frozen aren’t always safe for consumption either. In my opinion, consistent analysis and checking the food product for various microorganisms before the food product being release in the market would be a good solution for food companies to adopt.

    • elaine chan 2:34 pm on November 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Definitely an interesting post! As mentioned, it’s not common for consumers to associate frozen fruit products to an outbreak like this. As a Food Science student, I would also not give much thought as to how frozen fruits can be contaminated like this, as the processing procedures are relatively simple compared to other food products. I’m really glad that the surveillance and epidemiological outbreak investigation prevented another wave of outbreak from happening, and I feel that all food agencies across the globe can learn from this to prevent any sort of food break to occur. However, I do question the practicality of the advice provided by the European authorities of boiling the fruit product prior to consumption. Majority of the population consumes fruit in its raw form; thus, this advice seems rather impractical and difficult to adapt by consumers.

    • meggyli 10:28 pm on November 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Reading this post made me sad, because frozen berries are one of my favorite ingredients in a morning smoothie. 🙁 For something that is processed and stored in such a low temperature we usually don’t think about it possibly being contaminated with a pathogen. Even as a Nutrition student this is not something that would spring up in my mind when I think frozen berries. Therefore I think it is even more important for the public to be aware of such occurrences. I really enjoy the blogs on this site that highlights the outbreaks associated with uncommon foods.

    • flyingsquirrel 5:23 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As berries are heralded as the go-to fruits that taste delicious on their own and are flexible to use in many dishes, it is concerning especially for mothers as they begin to introduce solid foods to their children. It is common to mash fruits and vegetables to give to toddlers as they transition from milk to solids for benefit of taste andnutrients. However this is also a time children’s digestive and immune systems are still developing and maturing, thus they are less likely able to fight off the virus. It has been said that young children don’t always show symptoms of being infected and this may allow the spread of the virus as no one would be aware and this could also pose a problem.

  • laurenrappaport 2:59 pm on November 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brazil, , hepatitis A virus,   

    Dangerously High Levels of Viruses in Olympic Waters 


    The upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janiero (Rio). Brazil is the first South American country to host the Olympic games. However, currently, the sanitation state of the city is creating major concern as it may interfere with the athlete’s safety to compete in some sporting events. Brazil has been facing sanitation issues with their water for many years now. Currently, the waters in which sporting activities will take place are filled with human feces and garbage putting athletes at a huge risk of illness and attracting infectious diseases such as norovirus or hepatitis A virus (HAV). 10,000 athletes and thousands of tourists will be gathering in Rio to take part in the Olympics next August. 1,400 of these athletes will be competing in sports such as rowing, canoeing, sailing, triathlons and long distance swimming, all of which will be experiencing high exposure to the contaminated waters.

    An Associated Press (AP) analysis of the water quality from three Olympic sites was performed and revealed extremely dangerous levels of both viruses and bacteria. The test results showed that the virus and bacterial levels present in the water are 1.7 million times higher than what is considered a hazardous level in North America. The contamination is a result of household waste and sewage, which is unfiltered before entering the water streams. As the viruses present have low infectious doses, the concern for individual safety is on the rise.

    An expert in risk assessment for waterborne viruses analyzed the results from the AP testing and estimated that athletes from around the world who are not commonly exposed to these viruses have a 99% chance of being infected by a virus via the consumption of only 3 tablespoons of water. This can cause severe sickness such as gastroenteritis, vomiting, and diarrhea. Furthermore, both viruses are easily spread from person to person creating the risk for large amounts of illnesses during this world event.

    The major concern is for the athletes and the many tourists who will be gathering to watch the Olympic events. Both of these viruses are very easily attracted and spread. As such, the outcome of unsanitary waters could be catastrophic. Although Brazil committed to cleaning their water when they were selected to host the 2016 summer games, little improvement has been shown so far. Concerns have risen as now the games are less than one year away and little progress has been made. All individuals travelling to the games have been advised to receive heptatis A vaccinations however, little can be done about the prevention of norovirus. Therefore, the key solution to this issue is to clean up the waters by bringing the bacterial and viral levels down to a minimum.


    Associated Press (2015, July 30). Olympic athletes to swim and boat in “raw sewage”. CBC news. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/brazil-summer-olympics-water-contaminated-with-raw-sewage/

    Brooks, B., Barchfield, J. (2015, July 30). AP Investigation: Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio’s filth. Retrieved from http://bigstory.ap.org/article/d92f6af5121f49d982601a657d745e95/ap-investigation-rios-olympic-water-rife-sewage-virus

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011, March 4). Updated Norovirus Outbreak Management and Disease Prevention Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6003a1.htm

    Hepatitis News (2015, August 21). Hepatitis A Concern fors for 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Retrieved from http://www.hepmag.com/articles/hav_concerns_olympics_2831_27670.shtml

    World Health Organization (2015, July). Hepatits A. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/


    • catherine wong 6:03 pm on November 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This was an extremely interesting article. I did not know that Brazil had such problems in its waters, especially now when they are going to host the Summer Olympics in 2016. As we learned in class and as you mentioned above, these viruses such as Norovirus and Hepatitis A are highly infectious and could cause major consequences for the Summer Olympics when there are so many athletes and tourists from around the world all packed in those areas where the events are taking place. For Norovirus since it has such as high genetic variability and is very difficult for people to get immunity, wouldn’t people living in Brazil have a higher chance of getting ill with Norovirus compared to other countries with cleaner waters? I am actually quite interested to see if or how Brazil will try to clean up their waters before the Olympics and if they do not, what will happen to the athletes and tourists during that time.

    • ColleenChong 10:15 pm on November 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Lauren, I have to agree with Catherine this is a very interesting article. I never knew that Brazil had such concerning sanitation issues, with high levels of norovirus and hepatitis A virus. This not only concerning for athletes but also the great amount of tourist that will be attending the events at the Olympics. The dense population at this event would serve as a large reservoir for virus, as mentioned in class, the incubation period can be up to 28 days. From Brazil the viruses can be affecting countries all over the world after the event due its long incubation period- causing a global outbreak. I think it will be extremely difficult to solve the problem that Brazil is facing, especially due to the fact that the viruses has many routes of transmission and its ability to survive. I am too truly interested in seeing what Brazil come up with to clean the waters.

    • TamaraRitchie 2:29 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Awesome article Lauren! It is really important to think about all health and safety aspects when it comes to the Olympics. I had read previously that Brazil had a lot to do in order to be prepared for the summer 2016 Olympics, these articles focused mainly on drugs and crime though. I never thought about it through a food safety or health perspective. Having the Olympics in a developing country has it challenges as listed above. I am curious to see how they resolve this issue if they are able to. It seems it is a huge problem that will have to be resolved by fixing the sanitation program of the city as well as the safety of the water currently there. I am very interested to see what happens next summer, and if there are any Norovirus or other virus/bacterial outbreaks. Hopefully this is not the case as people will be travelling all over the world to enjoy the games. As well athletes would have trained for years to be given this opportunity and if they are not able to practice their sport in a safe and fair environment there could be negative backlash from the Olympic community.

    • amreenj 3:39 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Really great choice of article Lauren! I have previously read about the sanitation issues present in Rio however I wasn’t aware of the shear magnitude of the problem. It is awfully concerning that the viral and bacterial levels present in the water are 1.7 MILLION times higher than what is considered acceptable in North America! I think that if Brazil is unable to get this water sanitation issue under control, they shouldn’t be able to host the Summer Olympics. Considering the low infectious doses of HAV and norovirus poses an enormous risk to not only the athletes but also to those visiting. The potential aftermath of such a large number of people getting infected is absolutely catastrophic! I really hope that Brazil takes control on the situation before the Olympics, although I am unsure as to how they will do this. It would require a major overhaul of their infrastructure which, I am not sure is possible in such a short time period.

    • mustafa akhtar 4:08 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Brazil as a country is very big on soccer and it would be a national tragedy of the World Cup were to be moved to another country. This must be a huge concern! The whole event is dependent on healthy athletes.

      • JorgeMadrigalPons 4:23 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        the world cup happened last year… they are talking about the olympics

    • KristinaRichmond 7:00 pm on November 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is an interesting topic, and I agree that contaminated water is a huge issue regarding the Olympics, but I was wondering what the consequences are for the population currently? How are residents and tourists using the water now? Hopefully with the Olympic pressure the time and money will be put into cleaning up the water and will be beneficial to the people living there in the future.

    • BarbaraCorreiaFaustino 12:57 am on November 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This was a compelling article! As a Brazilian myself, I really hope that they fix this problem in time for the Olympics, not only for the athletes that are going to Rio to compete but also for the population that live there. I believe this should have already been solved for that population, but I hope the Olympic Games are going to be one more pressing reason for local authorities to act on cleaning the water and avoiding norovirus and HAV outbreaks. I really hope that, despite messing up last year’s World Cup in many aspects, Brazil’s and Rio’s governments will be able to solve this health issue.

    • Michelle Ebtia 1:28 am on November 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      After reading this blog, I decided to do some more research on the topic, and found a few journal articles that have been investigating this problem. In one interesting paper by Fistarol et al. which has been published this month (November 2015), the authors had made a few suggestions and devised an action plan, which is inspired by what the Canadian government had performed to remediate Sydney Harbour in Nova Scotia starting in 2009. The authors point out that the most important change that needs to me made is the treatment of sewage from domestic residents (specifically slums) and hospitals, while keeping the polluters and stakeholders involved in the entire process, by making the findings and data on improvements available to the public. It is also of relevance to this course that even the fish that is harvested from this body of water is contaminated with pollutants and pathogens.

      Work Cited:
      Fistarol, G. D. O., Coutinho, F. H., Moreira, A. P. B., Venas, T., Canovas, A., de Paula Jr, S. E., … & Thompson, F. (2015). Environmental and sanitary conditions of Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6, 1232.

    • Mandy Tam 9:10 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great Article!

      I am surprised that there is no such standard on the relationship with the amount of virus that cause illness with water contact.

      I think a lot of people do not know water is an important food source to be aware of as well. I guess probably because water is Canada is pretty clean, however, outbreak caused by water might increase in the future due to increase pollution to the water source. Therefore, this is something that we should seriously think about.

      Anyhow, I am a person who like to drink water from the tab or directly from the stream when I am camping. Now I think I need to rethink again before I am drinking water from an unknown source.

    • cheryl lau 3:18 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with the comments above that it is surprising that the Olympic Committee chose Rio de Janiero as the location for the next summer games even with the current situation of the waters. Norovirus is especially concerning because there aren’t specific preventative measures that one could take knowing that they would be exposed to the virus. Although the effects of Norovirus usually presents with mild symptoms, this could be enough to affect an athlete’s health. It would be a shame for athlete who have been training for most of their lives to not perform their best and waste their efforts.

    • EmilyChow 3:08 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Nice topic! This makes me wonder what regulations Brazil had in place in regards to water safety and also what changes have been implemented since it seems as though there are mainly preventative measures of making sure people receive vaccinations. Perhaps the contamination is worse in some waters than in others? Maybe the committee can focus on cleaning and regulating certain waters and coastlines in order to use their limited time and money most efficiently.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc

Spam prevention powered by Akismet