Advice to Boil Frozen Berries due to Hepatitis A Threat

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has re-issued advice to boil frozen berries due to a hepatitis A threat that has been identified in the food chain.

The warning comes one year after a similar alert was issued when an outbreak of Hepatitis A was linked to frozen berries and, despite a European-wide trace-back operation, no single point of contamination was found.

The FSAI said that it was concerned that several cases of Hepatitis A had been reported during the summer which could not be associated with travelling overseas. Since the original alert in July last year, 1,440 cases of unexplained Hepatitis A have been reported in twelve European countries, with 331 cases (21 in Ireland) confirmed by genotyping.

Frozen Berries Hepatitis A Threat from the Catering Industry

Professor Alan Reilly – chief executive of the FSAI – was quick to comment that the frozen berries hepatitis A threat originates from imported berries and not from those produced in Ireland, although he added that fresh berries should still be washed thoroughly before being eaten.

Professor Reilly also explained that imported frozen berries were widely used in the catering industry and that businesses involved in catering should check that the berries they used in their products were sourced from reputable suppliers with comprehensive food safety management systems in place.

The FSAI is working in collaboration with the National Virus Reference Laboratory, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Health Service Executive to track the sources of the frozen berries associated with the hepatitis A threat, and cross-referencing their findings with an ongoing investigation in Italy.

Hepatitis A Symptoms and Treatment

Hepatitis A symptoms are more likely to manifest in the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Typically the incubation period of the illness is between fifteen and fifty days, after which the victim will experience a fever, nausea, a loss of appetite and abdominal pain.

The symptoms can last from a few weeks to several months, during which time the only treatment is pain relief and plenty of rest. Doctors advise that, as hepatitis A is a disease which predominantly affects the liver, victims of the illness should refrain from drinking alcohol until they have recovered.

If exposure to the virus is identified quickly enough, victims can be treated with a mixture of the hepatitis A vaccine and immunoglobulin – a blood product derived from the blood of people who have a natural immunity to hepatitis A – however, this treatment normally has to be administered within fourteen days to be effective.

Compensation for Hepatitis A due to Contaminated Berries

Due to the incubation period of the illness, victims may have eaten contaminated berries prior to the FSAI´s advice being issued and before retailers had the opportunity to remove imported frozen berries from their shelves.

Nonetheless, stores, supermarkets and manufacturers in the catering industry all have a duty of care to supply goods which do not pose a threat to the health of those who consume them. Consequently, if you – or a loved one – have suffered from Hepatitis A due to eating contaminated fruit, you should speak with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.


New HSE CEO Can Reduce Medical Malpractice Claims

There has been much commentary in the media about the new Health Services Executive (HSE) chief executive Cathal Magee facing a difficult first year implementing significant budget cuts. However, he also has a significant challenge changing the internal staff culture of the HSE, which was most recently criticised by the Ombudsman for its “rotten culture of secrecy” when dealing with medical malpractice.

Cathal Magree should start by reading the paper in August 17th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine about a program launched by the University of Michigan Health System that encouraged health workers to report medical mistakes. The program included a procedure for telling victims about errors, who exactly made the error, what steps were made to prevent similar mistakes in the future, and mostly importantly, making a sincere apology to the patient or family. The procedure also included a process for offering fair compensation.

Reporting and explaining errors honestly to patients obviously leads to faster resolution of disputes, but also reduced the number of lawsuits by 36%.


Dublin Bus Pays 25,000 Euro Compensation to Passenger Injured by Needle Left on Bus Seat

Garreth Quinn of Clondalkin, County Dublin, has been awarded €25,000 in the Circuit Civil Court yesterday for a needle injury sustained on a bus seat. The incident happened in February 2005 when Quinn sat down on the 78A at the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre terminus, sustaining a needle injury to his leg from a syringe.  The bus driver immediately called an ambulance, which brought him to a hospital. Although tests on the syringe did not find any contamination, it was still deemed prudent to undergo blood tests and inoculations.  It took 3 years before it could be guaranteed that Quinn was not infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

The bus accident claim was taken against Dublin Bus.  Judge Joseph Mathews found that visual inspections by Dublin Dub staff were not sufficient and that crevices in seats on buses should be probed for needles and syringes.  The injury compensation award consisted of €15,000 for suffering to date and €10,000 for future suffering.