Sweden: Thirteen Hepatitis A infections from frozen strawberries

Thirteen people in Sweden have been infected by the Hepatitis A virus linked to frozen strawberries from Poland. Eleven confirmed and two suspected cases were reported from the four Swedish counties Skåne, Blekinge, Kalmar and Gävleborg. 
Nine women and four men aged 11 to 92 are affected. The most recent person to fall ill had symptoms starting on June 18.

The Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten), the National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) and local authorities are involved in the investigation. They traced the source of the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection to frozen strawberries from Poland and informed Polish authorities of their findings.

All of the cases had smoothies or a dessert containing frozen imported strawberries that were not heated prior to consumption. The strawberries were not sold directly to consumers. Analysis of the current lot of strawberries from Poland showed they contain the same type of hepatitis A virus, genotype 1B, that has infected the victims.

Livsmedelsverket told Food Safety News that patients ate strawberries in smoothies from a juice bar and unheated strawberries in a dessert in a nursing home. A recall is underway, but officials say the products might still be on the market.

Skogsmat i Uddeholm AB, a Swedish producer and supplier of berries, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, purées and juice concentrates, imported the strawberries from Poland. Menigo Foodservice AB, a food supplier based in Sweden and owned by Sysco, distributed them.

The HAV is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person, according to the World Health Organization. Anyone who has not been vaccinated or previously infected can get infected.

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