hepatitis aBritish Columbia health authorities are monitoring a Hepatitis A outbreak in Dawson Creek, B.C. and trying to identify the source of the viral infection. Northern Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Sandra Allison said there have been five confirmed cases. Allison said the health teams are trying to identify where the infected people have been and eaten in the past seven weeks after exposure, as the virus has a long incubation period – from three to 70 days. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver spread through fecal-oral contact. The virus is ingested by mouth from fecal-contaminated food or drink or through close personal contact with an infected person. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice. They can last for several weeks but usually not beyond two months. The hepatitis A virus likely originated with small mammals, according to findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In September, MD Magazine reported that seals carry the closest known genetic relative of hepatitis A, called phopivirus. Researchers from the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bonn, Germany studied almost 16,000 samples from more than 200 small mammal specimens to search for hepatitis A related viruses among small mammals. The samples were collected across the globe from bats, rodents, hedgehogs, and shrews. The researchers tested for structural, genomic, antigenic, and pathogenic properties similarities. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)