A spike in hepatitis E infections was recorded in Finland this past month.

The National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) is investigating the reasons for the increase.

In January, 19 people fell ill due to a hepatitis E infection in different parts of the country.

In 2023, only one hepatitis E infection was reported to the Infectious Disease Register during the same period.

THL has requested hepatitis E-positive samples from clinical laboratories for genotyping. This information on the virus is used to identify a potential outbreak.

So far, six infected people have been interviewed by THL, but no specific common factor has yet been found.

Between 20 and 60 hepatitis E cases are reported to the Infectious Disease Register each year. In 2023, there were 30 cases.

In mid-2023, health officials in Jersey revealed an undisclosed number of hepatitis E infections linked to undercooked pork, based on patient interviews. Some people needed hospital treatment.

Hepatitis E infection is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). People usually get infected through food or water. Advice to avoid infection includes thoroughly cooking all meat, especially pork, before eating it and washing hands after touching uncooked meat or meat products.

Symptoms include fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. However, many people, especially young children, have no symptoms. Symptoms usually appear from two to six weeks after exposure to the virus and last from one to four weeks.

Latest zoonoses data for Finland
Meanwhile, the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) has shared that Campylobacter and Salmonella were behind the most infections in Finland in 2022, reflecting the situation in Europe.

Salmonella Mbandaka caused the largest epidemic in Finland, with nearly 100 people falling ill.

While the third most common agent in Europe was Yersinia, in Finland, it was Cryptosporidium. The incidence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections and listeriosis has remained at the same level in Finland from 2018 to 2022.

Salmonella was found in two poultry establishments in 2022. Salmonella Typhimurium was detected in two flocks of broilers reared on the same establishment, and Salmonella Enteritidis was detected in laying hens. Based on stool samples, Salmonella infections were detected in cattle at 23 establishments. The pathogen was also found in pigs at two sites.

Presence in animals and meat remained within the target set by the National Salmonella Control Program of less than 1 percent in slaughter animals and less than 0.5 percent in meat. 

Of broilers examined in Finland, Campylobacter occurred in just over 4 percent in summer and less than half a percent in winter. No neck skin samples examined by operators had a level above 1,000 colony-forming units per gram (CFU/g).

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