Fresh organic from — a very contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). In 2016, there was another outbreak of hepatitis A with .
But it’s not just strawberries. Here’s a look at which foods are most at risk of being contaminated with hepatitis A – and the best way to protect yourself.
What foods are most likely to be contaminated with hepatitis A?
“In theory, any food could be contaminated with hepatitis A,” the assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told Yahoo Life. “In practice, most include raw vegetables – including salads – and fruits, shellfish, ice and water.”
All foods are at risk of contamination with the hepatitis A virus if handled by someone who has come into contact with the virus or washed in dirty, contaminated water. While not very common in the US, since 2011, previous outbreaks of food-related hepatitis A have occurred in , , and .
Are organic products more likely to be contaminated with hepatitis A?
Organic products “certainly do not protect the consumer from contracting hepatitis A,” says Chen.
According to one , in the US there have been more foodborne outbreaks associated with organic food than conventionally grown food. Between 1992 and 2014, 18 viral and bacterial outbreaks were caused by organic foods, with 8 of those outbreaks involving agricultural products. However, it is important to note that there have been more recent outbreaks in organic food as more people are also producing and consuming organic food.
What we do know for sure is that the risk of any product being contaminated with hepatitis A increases with poor sanitation and hygiene, regardless of whether it has been organically or conventionally grown.
How does the hepatitis A virus infect people?
“Hepatitis A is spread by eating something that contains the virus. Most of the time, this means consuming contaminated food or water,” explains Chen. This type of spread is called , where the food or water consumed is contaminated with the feces of an infected person.
Chen says other possible ways to contract hepatitis A include not washing your hands and then eating after contact with contaminated items such as surfaces and diapers, and . “In both cases, transmission still occurs through ingestion of the hepatitis A virus,” he says.
The risk of transmission of hepatitis A is also higher in areas with poor sanitary conditions and among those with poor personal hygiene.
How do you know if you’ve been infected?
Common symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever and feeling tired. Some people may have symptoms for longer and even more serious but rare consequences such as liver failure or death – although this is more common in people over 50 and with other chronic health conditions. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear, which means it’s possible to have no symptoms while still spreading the infection.
A with hepatitis A virus. The good news is, and without complications or liver damage. Having the infection also means you will develop antibodies, giving you lifelong immunity.
What can you do to protect yourself from hepatitis A?
“Get vaccinated against hepatitis A,” Chen encourages. The vaccine is a series of two injections at least six months apart and is available to anyone over 12 months of age. “In immunocompetent individuals, it should provide 95% protection for more than 10 years, possibly up to 20 to 30 years,” says Chen. If you have not received this vaccine, you can speak to your doctor and see if it is available to you.
As hygiene is also a factor in spreading the virus that causes hepatitis A, Chen says it’s important ” [for at least 20 seconds] with soap and warm water after handling raw foods, changing diapers, using the toilet, or before eating.” Be sure to clean and sanitize all surfaces before and after food preparation as well.
If you are about to travel to a location with a high prevalence of hepatitis A, it is recommended that you avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables, shellfish, and untreated water and ice. “Boil tap or well water before drinking or making ice, or use bottled water,” suggests Chen.
And lastly, Chen recommends following along to stay current due to a hepatitis A outbreak. That way, you can be aware of any foods that could put you at risk and know the correct protocols for returning or disposing of food items. collected.
Maxine Yeung is a nutritionist and personal trainer.
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