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Frozen Berry Hepatitis A Outbreak: Highlighting the Importance of the Hepatitis A Vaccine

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Twinrix Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B VaccineHepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus that can cause mild to severe illness. Although many people erroneously consider hepatitis a sexually transmitted disease, hepatitis A is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food and water as well as through direct contact with an infectious person. Individuals infected with a mild case of the illness often recover without treatment. However, more severe infections can cause flu-like symptoms, jaundice, severe stomach pains, diarrhea, and even death. Approximately 20% of individuals require hospitalization because of a hepatitis A infection. Three to five people out of every 1,000 cases die from the disease.

In recent news, an outbreak of hepatitis A has been linked to the Townsend Farms’ Organic Anti-oxidant Blend Frozen Berry Mix. Currently at least thirty people in five states have been sickened by the frozen berries contaminated with hepatitis A. More cases are suspected. The problem berries were compiled from the United States, Argentina, Chile, and Turkey and were then sold by Costco. Early signs of hepatitis A usually appear between two and six weeks after exposure, so individuals who may have eaten the contaminated berries are urged to speak with a health care professional.

Unlike hepatitis B and hepatitis C, hepatitis A does not cause chronic liver disease. However, hepatitis A can cause fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure), which is associated with high mortality. Once exposed to the hepatitis A virus, an individual is immune to the disease. Worldwide, hepatitis A infects an estimated 1.4 million individuals each year.

In addition to proper hygiene including hand washing after using the bathroom and proper sanitation, hepatitis A infection is highly preventable with the hepatitis A vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Infection currently recommends that child receive two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine between twelve and twenty-four months of age. The hepatitis A vaccine is also recommended for unvaccinated individuals who have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus.

The current outbreak of hepatitis A resulting from contaminated frozen berries highlights the importance of the hepatitis A vaccine. Although hepatitis A can be transmitted through sex with an infected individual, the disease most often spreads through contaminated food. Hepatitis A can cause serious illness and even death. The hepatitis A vaccine is highly effective at preventing the spread of and infection from the virus. All children between the ages of one and two should receive the hepatitis A vaccine (barring a legitimate medical reason contraindicative of vaccination). Adults, too, who are not already immune to the virus or who have not already received the vaccine should also consider getting the hepatitis A vaccine. Infection can, and does, occur from the unlikeliest of sources such as frozen berries.

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References

Hepatitis A: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-a/DS00397
Hepatitis A: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/
Hepatitis A Vaccine: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-hep-a.pdf
Hepatitis A and B Vaccines: http://children.webmd.com/vaccines/hepatitis-a-and-b-vaccines
Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Frozen Berry Mix: http://www.inquisitr.com/683287/hepatitis-a-outbreak-linked-to-frozen-berry-mix/

Image Credits

Twinrix Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B Vaccine: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twinrix_GlaxoSmithKline_-_i-hepA_%26_r-hepB-S-Ag_-_doos_Terumo-naald_spuiten.JPG

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Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cat. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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