Anyone who has eaten Western Family brand freshcut pineapple in British Columbia recently is at risk of developing Hepatitis A and has an extremely limited amount of time to take the post-exposure vaccination for the virus.
Complicating the situation is the fact that Canadian public health officials believe other products are affected, but they had not been identified for the public as of Saturday evening. No illnesses had been confirmed as of Friday.
The British Columbia Center for Disease Control reported that the Hepatitis A virus had been detected in a sample of Western Family fresh pineapple chunks. The agency did not indicate whether the sampling had been done by government or industry.
The implicated freshcut pineapple chunks were sold in single-serve, clear plastic cups at grocery stores in British Columbia, according to a public alert from the BC Center for Disease Control (BCCDC).
“Current information indicates the cups were produced on Aug. 11 and distributed to 38 Save-On-Foods, Overwaitea Foods and PriceSmart Foods stores in BC,” according to the alert.
“The fruit cups may have been on sale from Aug. 11 and have a best-before date of Aug. 19.”
There is concern that consumers may still have the product in their home freezers. Anyone who has the implicated Western Family fresh pineapple chunks in their homes should immediately discard it in a sealed bag. Refrigerators, containers and other items that came into contact with the pineapple should be cleaned and sanitized.
Hepatitis A infection is caused by a virus that affects the liver. The virus is found in the stool of a infected people. Some people who are infected do not develop symptoms of infection.
The virus is spread when a person eats food or drinks something that has come in contact with infected stool. Very small amounts of the microscopic virus, which cannot be seen or otherwise detected without laboratory equipment, can result in infection.
Infected food handlers can pass the virus on to other people if they do not wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom.
Limited time to seek vaccination
Most children are routinely vaccinated for Hepatitis A, but many adults have not received the vaccine because it was not available when they were children.
There is a post-exposure vaccine available, but it must be given within 14 days of exposure to the virus.
“If you consumed this product on Aug. 18 or later you should receive a dose of Hepatitis A vaccine,” according to the public health alert. “If you develop symptoms of Hepatitis A, contact your family doctor and local health unit office immediately.”
Also, anyone who has eaten Western Family brand fresh pineapple chunks and developed symptoms of Hepatitis A infection should immediately seek medical attention.
It can take 15 to 50 days for the symptoms to develop, so people who are not ill but ate the implicated pineapple should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks.
Symptoms can include yellow skin or eyes, loss of appetite, fever, tiredness, stomach ache, nausea, dark colored urine, and light or whitish colored bowel movements.
Sometimes the symptoms can be so mild that a person may not be aware that they have the disease. Illness can last for several weeks, but people generally recover completely. However, for the elderly or those with chronic liver disease the infection can be life threatening.
Free vaccinations available
For information about free Hepatitis A vaccine if you consumed the product within the past 14 days, check with one of the following health authorities:
- Fraser Health: http://www.fraserhealth.ca/hepAclinics
- Interior Health: https://www.interiorhealth.ca/pages/default.aspx
- Island Health: http://www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/NR_HepatitisA_westernfamily_pineapple_1sept2017
- Northern Health: https://www.northernhealth.ca/YourHealth/HealthAlerts/CommunicableIllnessDisease.aspx
- Vancouver Coastal Health: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/Hep-A
A free Hepatitis A vaccine may also be offered at Overwaitea banner stores including Save-On-Foods, PriceSmart Foods, Overwaitea Foods and Urban Fare. Contact the pharmacist at any of these stores for more information.
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