Vaccines work, especially on that fecal-oral route: Increase in hepatitis A virus infections – U.S. 2013-2018

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable viral infection of the liver that is primarily transmitted through consumption of microscopic amounts of feces.

During 2016–2018, reports of hepatitis A infections in the United States increased by 294% compared with 2013–2015, related to outbreaks associated with contaminated food items, among men who have sex with men, and primarily, among persons who report drug use or homelessness.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Increasing vaccination among groups at risk for hepatitis A infection might halt ongoing outbreaks and prevent future outbreaks.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is primarily transmitted fecal-orally after close contact with an infected person (1); it is the most common cause of viral hepatitis worldwide, typically causing acute and self-limited symptoms, although rarely liver failure and death can occur (1). Rates of hepatitis A had declined by approximately 95% during 1996–2011; however, during 2016–2018, CDC received approximately 15,000 reports of HAV infections from U.S. states and territories, indicating a recent increase in transmission (2,3). Since 2017, the vast majority of these reports were related to multiple outbreaks of infections among persons reporting drug use or homelessness (4). In addition, increases of HAV infections have also occurred among men who have sex with men (MSM) and, to a much lesser degree, in association with consumption of imported HAV-contaminated food (5,6). Overall, reports of hepatitis A cases increased 294% during 2016–2018 compared with 2013–2015. During 2016–2018, CDC tested 4,282 specimens, of which 3,877 (91%) had detectable HAV RNA; 565 (15%), 3,255 (84%), and 57 (<1%) of these specimens were genotype IA, IB, or IIIA, respectively. Adherence to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations to vaccinate populations at risk can help control the current increases and prevent future outbreaks of hepatitis A in the United States (7).

Hepatitis A infections among persons who meet the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) hepatitis A case definition (https://wwwn.cdc.gov/nndss/conditions/hepatitis-a-acute/) are notified to CDC through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). Cases reported to CDC through NNDSS during 2013–2018 were used to calculate percent change (2013–2015 versus 2016–2018) by state and mapped using RStudio software (version 1.2.1335; RStudio, Inc.). Serum specimens from CSTE confirmed cases submitted to the CDC laboratory were tested for HAV RNA by polymerase chain reaction, and isolated virus was amplified to characterize a 315–base-pair fragment of the VP1/P2B region, which defines the genotype of the virus.

Overall, reports of hepatitis A cases increased 294% during 2016–2018 compared with 2013–2015 (Figure). Eighteen states had lower case counts during 2016–2018 compared with 2013–2015. Nine states and Washington, DC had an increase of approximately 500%. During 2013–2018, 4,508 HAV anti-immunoglobulin M–positive specimens underwent additional testing at CDC. During 2013–2015, 226 specimens underwent additional testing, of which 197 (87%) had detectable HAV RNA; of the RNA-positive specimens, 76 (39%), 121 (61%), and 0 (0%) tested positive for a genotype IA, IB, or IIIA viral strain, respectively. In comparison, 4,282 specimens were tested by CDC during 2016–2018, of which 3,877 (91%) had detectable HAV RNA; 565 (15%), 3,255 (84%), and 57 (<1%) of these specimens were genotype IA, IB, or IIIA, respectively.

The number of hepatitis A infections reported to CDC increased during 2016–2018, along with the number of specimens from infected persons submitted to CDC for additional testing. In the past, outbreaks of hepatitis A virus infections occurred every 10–15 years and were associated with asymptomatic children (8). With the widespread adoption of universal childhood vaccination recommendations (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5507a1.htm), asymptomatic children are no longer the main drivers of hepatitis A outbreaks (3,9). Although the overall incidence rate of HAV infections has decreased within all age groups, a large population of susceptible, unvaccinated adults who were not infected by being exposed to the virus during childhood remain vulnerable to infection by contaminated foods (typically imported from countries with endemic HAV transmission) and recently, on a much larger scale, through behaviors that increase risk for infection in certain vulnerable populations, such as drug use (3).

Increasingly, molecular epidemiology is employed by public health laboratories to better characterize hepatitis A transmission patterns. When combined with reliable epidemiologic data, these laboratory data can be used to identify transmission networks and confirm the source of exposure during common-source outbreaks, facilitating prompt and effective public health response. Historically, genotype IA has been the most common genotype circulating in North and South America. During 2013–2018, HAV genotype IB predominated in the United States. Increasing numbers of genotype IIIA were seen, a genotype that is considered rare in the United States.

Decreasing new infections from hepatitis A virus can be achieved and sustained by maintaining a high level of population immunity through vaccination. There is no universal vaccination recommendation for adults in the United States; however, ACIP does recommend vaccination for adults who plan travel to HAV-endemic countries, MSM, persons who use drugs, persons with chronic liver disease, and recently, persons experiencing homelessness (7). Continued efforts to increase hepatitis A vaccination coverage among the ACIP-recommended risk groups is vital to halting the current hepatitis A outbreaks and reducing overall hepatitis A incidence in the United States.

Members of the Division of Viral Hepatitis Laboratory, Division of Viral Hepatitis HAV Incident Management Team, Food and Drug Administration CORE Signals Teams; state and local health departments; medical and mental health partners; corrections partners; syringe service providers.

Vaccines work: Hepatitis A outbreak in Sweden: Fresh dates from Iran are the suspected source

Outbreak News Today reports the Sweden Public Health Authority, or Folkhälsomyndigheten are reporting an outbreak of hepatitis A where the suspected source of infection is fresh dates from Iran.

Of the nine cases reported since late February, eight of the cases are confirmed and have the same type of hepatitis A virus (genotype IIIA) and one case is suspected.

The cases are between the ages of 28 and 73, five are men and four are women. The cases are from seven different counties (Örebro, Stockholm, Uppsala, Skåne, Södermanland, Kalmar and Halland). The latest case fell on April 16. Common to the cases is that they regularly eat fresh dates.

In the eight confirmed cases, four different strains with genotype IIIA have been detected. Two of these are similar to the tribes that caused an outbreak in Denmark in 2018 linked to dates from Iran. In that outbreak, several variants of genotype IIIA strains could be detected in the cases. One of these outbreak strains could also be detected in dates.

Health officials continue the investigation to identify the source of the outbreak.

Vaccines work: Disney dinner show worker diagnosed with Hepatitis A

There are so many Hepatitis A outbreaks going on in the U.S., we can’t begin to report them all, and many of the outbreaks have nothing to do with food.

But when it involves at a Disney worker at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show, it’s sorta tempting.

Hepatitis A vaccinations have now been offered to other workers at the resort

Disney has not closed the resort but insists it has been thoroughly sanitized

A Disney restaurant employee at the Fort Wilderness Resort has been diagnosed with the highly contagious infection Hepatitis A, sparking health fears at the Orlando resort.

The unnamed employee worked at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue where diners can eat while watching a show.

Disney has not closed the facility despite the scare but insists it has been thoroughly sanitized.

The worker has not yet returned to the restaurant and will not be allowed to until they have been cleared of the virus, the company said.

The employee has not worked since they were diagnosed with Hepatitis A and the park remains open

The case was reported to Florida’s Department of Health on January 24.

In a statement, Disney said that all of its employees had been offered vaccinations for the virus but it remains unclear if they all took them.

‘Nothing is more important to us than safety. Upon learning this news, we immediately began working with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

‘The impacted cast member has not worked since being diagnosed and will not return until officially cleared by the Department of Health.

‘We are not aware of anyone else becoming ill and continue to be engaged with the Department of Health to ensure we have all of the right processes in place to protect our cast members and guests,’ a spokesman told DailyMail.com.

If you ate at this Tampa burger joint recently, officials recommend hepatitis A vaccination

Tampa, or more accurately Sarasota, is equidistant from the equator as is Brisbane.

I have a strong, childhood-based link to that area of Florida and probably why I’ve settled into Brisbane.

Or it’s the familiarity in targeted advertising for funeral homes and life insurance.

A food service worker employed at Hamburger Mary’s Bar and Grille in Ybor City has tested positive for hepatitis A, according to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

The individual worked at the restaurant between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20, an investigation found.

Anyone who frequented the restaurant within the time period and has not previously received a hepatitis A vaccination is advised to do so as soon as possible. Those who have previously had a hepatitis A vaccination do not need to take any additional action.

A 24-hour hotline has also been set up for people who have questions about hepatitis A. It can be reached at 813-307-8004.

Doctor’s offices, pharmacies and state and local health departments offer hepatitis A vaccinations. Find out more at vaccines.gov.

Vaccines work: US advisory group urges hepatitis A shots for homeless

And I would urge Hepatitis A shots for all food service employees.

For the first time, a U.S. advisory committee is recommending a routine vaccination for homeless people, voting Wednesday to urge hepatitis A shots to prevent future outbreaks of the contagious liver disease.

Carla Johnson of ABC News reports the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made the recommendation at a meeting in Atlanta. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to adopt it and send guidance to health care providers.

Homeless encampments can contribute to disease through unsanitary conditions. Hepatitis A spreads person to person through contaminated food or dirty needles used for injection drugs. The virus also can spread from sexual contact with an infected person.

The recommendation would make it easier for shelters, emergency rooms and clinics that serve the homeless to offer hepatitis A shots along with other services.

Hepatitis A vaccinations already are recommended for children at age 1 and for others in danger of infection, such as drug users, some international travelers and men who have sex with men.

The committee of health experts voted unanimously to add homeless people to those groups. The panel is charged with developing recommendations for the CDC on the use of vaccines in the United States.

Health experts have seen an increase in hepatitis A outbreaks and suspected exposures, caused in part by homelessness and drug use.

Twelve states have reported more than 7,500 hepatitis A infections from January 2017 to October 2018, according to the CDC. There were more than 4,300 hospitalizations and about 74 deaths.

Homeless people have made up a large percentage of the cases in San Diego and Utah. Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee have also reported cases among homeless people.

With even low rates of routine vaccination, the spread of hepatitis A can be slowed, Dr. Noele Nelson of the CDC told the committee before the vote. The recommendation is for a two-dose series of shots, but even one dose can provide immunity for 11 years, Nelson said.

At $28 per dose, a price available through the public health system, the cost of routine vaccination could be in the millions of dollars, Nelson said, but fighting a prolonged outbreak can be even more expensive and disruptive to the health care system.

Strawberry fields forever: At least 20 sickened with hepatitis A linked to frozen berries from Poland

Hepatitis A virus is an important cause of food-borne diseases and has been associated with several European outbreaks linked to berries [14]. Here, we describe an ongoing outbreak of hepatitis A virus (HAV) in Sweden and Austria and the confirmation of frozen strawberries imported from Poland as the source of infection. The aims are to highlight the importance of sequencing in outbreak investigations and, due to the long shelf-life of the food vehicle, to increase awareness and warnings towards HAV infections related to frozen strawberries in Europe.

According to a report by the scientific journal Eurosurveillance, 20 cases of hepatitis A were reported in six districts of Sweden between June and September 2018, of which 17 were confirmed and three were likely. “In combined epidemiological and microbiological studies, imported frozen strawberries produced in Poland were identified as the source of the outbreak,” the journal said. Also in Austria hepatitis A diseases have been associated with strawberries from the same manufacturer.
Swedish and Austrian researchers have identified strawberries as a source of infection for many hepatitis A diseases in their countries. “Examinations and interviews with kitchen staff showed that the strawberries had never been sufficiently heated before serving. Strawberries were the only food that was common to all cases, “says the Swedish experts.

The best protection against hepatitis A is vaccination, which is available for children 12 months and older.

Hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported frozen strawberries by sequencing, Sweden and Austria, June to September 2018

Eurosurveillance 2018;23(41)

Theresa Enkirch1,2Ronnie Eriksson3Sofia Persson3Daniela Schmid4Stephan W. Aberle5,Emma Löf1,6Bengt Wittesjö7Birgitta Holmgren8Charlotte Johnzon9Eva X. Gustafsson8,Lena M. Svensson10Lisa Labbé Sandelin11Lukas Richter4Mats Lindblad3Mia Brytting1,Sabine Maritschnik4Tatjana Tallo1Therese Malm12Lena Sundqvist1Josefine Lundberg Ederth1

 https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.41.1800528

https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.41.1800528

Frozen berries should be boiled

This is why we boil berries at home.

Hepatitis A virus is an important cause of food-borne diseases and has been associated with several European outbreaks linked to berries [14]. Here, we describe an ongoing outbreak of hepatitis A virus (HAV) in Sweden and Austria and the confirmation of frozen strawberries imported from Poland as the source of infection. The aims are to highlight the importance of sequencing in outbreak investigations and, due to the long shelf-life of the food vehicle, to increase awareness and warnings towards HAV infections related to frozen strawberries in Europe.

Hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported frozen strawberries by sequencing, Sweden and Austria, June to September 2018

Theresa Enkirch, Ronnie Eriksson, Sofia Persson, Daniela Schmid, Stephan W. Aberle, et al

https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.41.1800528#html_fulltext</a

Food Safety Talk 166: Surprising lack of cannibalism questions

Don and Ben traveled to SUNY Geneseo for a live version of the podcast sponsored by the Center for Integrative Learning, and hosted by the amazing Beth McCoy. The episode title comes from an unrecorded after dark which may or may not have taken place in a bar in Geneseo.

Episode 166 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home.

Vaccines work: Beware the Hep A in Denmark from Morocco

On 2 May 2018, Denmark reported a cluster of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections with the subgenotype IA strain DK2018_231, through the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’s Epidemic Intelligence Information System (EPIS) for food- and waterborne diseases and zoonoses (FWD).

One of the three confirmed cases had travelled to Morocco. In response, five additional European Union (EU) countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom (UK)) reported cases (n = 20) infected with the same strain between 21 January and 10 April 2018.

Concurrently, Germany reported to EPIS that it observed more cases of hepatitis A with travel history to Morocco than expected, compared with the same period in the previous 5 years. Molecular analysis of the HAV VP1/P2A region revealed an unrelated cluster of the HAV subgenotype IB strain V18–16428. Cases infected with this unrelated strain were also reported from France, the Netherlands, Sweden and UK.

The appearance of clusters with a link to Morocco triggered further epidemiological investigations.

Two concurrent outbreaks of hepatitis A highlight the risk of infection for non-immune travelers to Morocco, January to June 2018

5.july.18

Eurosurveillance

Martyna Gassowski, Kai Michaelis, Mirko Faber, Julie Figoni…

https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.27.1800329

1 dead, 24 sick check your freezers: Hepatitis A death linked to frozen pomegranate recall in Australia (grown in Egypt)

Now for something more serious from Australia.

SA Health chief medical officer and chief public health officer Professor Paddy Phillips revealed a 64-year-old woman died last Wednesday after “some time” in hospital.

“This is a rare and tragic case and I offer my sincere condolences to the woman’s family,” Professor Phillips said.

“The majority of people infected with hepatitis A recover fully and the woman’s death is the only death linked to this recalled product nationally to date.

“The incubation period for hepatitis A is generally 15-50 days, so we don’t anticipate further cases because the product was recalled two months ago.

“While we expect most people would have disposed of the recalled product, we urge everyone to double-check freezers and remove any affected products.

“Fresh pomegranate and frozen Australian-grown pomegranate products are not affected.”

Her death had been referred to the Coroner.

The Creative Gourmet 180g frozen pomegranate arils, which are sold at Coles supermarkets, were first recalled in April after a hepatitis A outbreak in New South Wales.

Then in May, SA Health again reminded people to throw away the product, made by Entyce Food Ingredients, after 11 linked hepatitis cases.

Professor Phillips said some 2,000 packets of the fruit — grown in Egypt — were sold.

Of those, 226 packets were returned, but he said they believed many more were thrown away as instructed by health authorities.

He said it was “very rare” to die from hepatitis A.

“Most people usually recover without any consequences but occasionally this does happen,” he said.

He would not say if the woman suffered other medical conditions.

SA Health was told about the woman’s death yesterday, Professor Phillips said.

“We have come out as soon as we found out about it.”