Australian hepatitis A outbreak still linked to semi-dried tomatoes

Hepatitis A is one of the few causes of foodborne illness that only cycles through humans – and their poop.

So any outbreak of hepatitis A means human sewage came into contact with the food (which then wasn’t cooked) or someone shedding the virus had a poop, failed to adequately wash their hands, and then prepared an uncooked food.

Either could be happening in this on-going outbreak of hepatitis A in Australia that has sickened about 130 people and appears to be linked to semi-dry tomatoes.

Victorian health authorities revealed a further 23 cases of the infectious disease diagnosed in the past week.

Victoria’s chief health officer Dr John Carnie said that so far this year there had been 200 notifications of hepatitis A, compared to 74 at the same time last year.

A study into the increase of cases indicates that more than two thirds of people that have become ill recalled eating semi-dried tomatoes, he said.

Local producers had promised the Department of Human Services they were doing their best to reduce the risk, while importers of the tomatoes had also been instructed to ensure appropriate quality control measures were in place, he said.

Bottled semi-dried tomatoes in supermarkets were pasteurised and considered safe along with any of the cooked product such as in pizzas or quiches.

The greatest risk would appear to be at restaurants and cafes, where semi-dried tomatoes are served in foods such as salads and sandwiches.

Don’t eat poop. Or at least cook it.