Outbreak of hepatitis A genotype IB in Australia associated with imported frozen pomegranate arils.Epidemiol Infect. 2019 01; 147:e74.EI
Locally acquired hepatitis A infection is re-emerging in Australia owing to person-to-person outbreaks among men who have sex with men and imported frozen produce. This paper describes a multi-state foodborne outbreak in the first half of 2018. Enhanced human epidemiological investigation including a case-control study, as well as microbial surveillance and trace-back investigations concluded that the outbreak was caused by consumption of imported frozen pomegranate arils. A total of 30 cases of hepatitis A infection, genotype IB with identical sequences met the outbreak case definition, including 27 primary cases and three secondary cases. Twenty-five (83%) of the cases were hospitalised for their illness and there was one death. Imported frozen pomegranate arils from Egypt were strongly implicated as the source of infection through case interviews (19 of 26 primary cases) as well as from a case-control study (adjusted odds ratio 43.4, 95% confidence interval 4.2-448.8, P = 0.002). Hepatitis A virus (HAV) was subsequently detected by polymerase chain reaction in two food samples of the frozen pomegranate aril product. This outbreak was detected and responded to promptly owing to routine genetic characterisation of HAVs from all hepatitis A infections in Australia as part of a national hepatitis A enhanced surveillance project. This is now the third outbreak of hepatitis A in Australia from imported frozen fruits. A re-assessment of the risk of these types of imported foods is strongly recommended.