Source of infection discovered: strawberries from Poland burdened with hepatitis A virus

Frozen strawberries from Poland infected with hepatitis A.

There have been numerous hepatitis A diseases in Austria and Sweden in recent months. Researchers have now found the source of infection: Polish frozen strawberries.

Strawberries identified as the source of the hepatitis A outbreak

According to a report from the scientific journal Eurosurveillance, 20 cases of hepatitis A were reported in six Swedish districts between June and September 2018, of which 17 were confirmed and three were probable. "In combined epidemiological and microbiological studies, imported frozen strawberries produced in Poland was identified as the source of the outbreak," the journal said. In Austria, hepatitis A diseases were also 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 country. (Image: Tim UR /

Fruits were not sufficiently heated for consumption

According to "Eurosurveillance", the investigations in Sweden showed that all infected persons had consumed strawberries within 30 days before the onset of the disease.

These were consumed in the form of strawberry smoothies or desserts in juice bars, nursing homes, a hotel, a restaurant and a school.

"Investigations and interviews with kitchen staff showed that the strawberries had never been sufficiently heated before being served, and strawberries were the only food that was common in all cases," says Swedish experts.

New genotype

The genotype of the hepatitis A virus found in Sweden was also found in Austria.

According to the Agency for Food Security (AGES), in July 2018 a total of 15 cases with this new genotype were detected by the Reference Center for Hepatitis A (Center for Virology, Medical University of Vienna) (from 10 October 2018).

"The epidemiological studies of the AGES as a source of outbreaks with frozen strawberries with a very high probability of a Polish producer," writes the agency.

According to the information, the frozen strawberries were distributed by wholesalers. "The Austrian customers were asked to heat frozen strawberries from the Polish producer for further use," says AGES.

Flu-like symptoms

Hepatitis A is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis A virus that is transmitted via smear and contaminated food. The main symptom is acute inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).

In principle, hepatitis can vary depending on the type of virus, but in the beginning it usually shows more general symptoms such as fatigue, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, mild fever and vomiting.

Later, other typical symptoms such as dark urine, light bowel movements and yellow eyes or skin ("jaundice") may be added.

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