Large and prolonged food-borne multistate hepatitis A outbreak in Europe associated with consumption of frozen berries, 2013 to 2014

Euro Surveill. 2015 Jul 23;20(29):21192. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.es2015.20.29.21192.


In May 2013, Italy declared a national outbreak of hepatitis A, which also affected several foreign tourists who had recently visited the country. Molecular investigations identified some cases as infected with an identical strain of hepatitis A virus subgenotype IA. After additional European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries reported locally acquired and travel-related cases associated with the same outbreak, an international outbreak investigation team was convened, a European outbreak case definition was issued and harmonisation of the national epidemiological and microbiological investigations was encouraged. From January 2013 to August 2014, 1,589 hepatitis A cases were reported associated with the multistate outbreak; 1,102 (70%) of the cases were hospitalised for a median time of six days; two related deaths were reported. Epidemiological and microbiological investigations implicated mixed frozen berries as the vehicle of infection of the outbreak. In order to control the spread of the outbreak, suspected or contaminated food batches were recalled, the public was recommended to heat-treat berries, and post-exposure prophylaxis of contacts was performed. The outbreak highlighted how large food-borne hepatitis A outbreaks may affect the increasingly susceptible EU/EEA general population and how, with the growing international food trade, frozen berries are a potential high-risk food.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Contact Tracing
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • European Union
  • Female
  • Food Contamination*
  • Foodborne Diseases / diagnosis
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / virology
  • Frozen Foods / poisoning
  • Frozen Foods / virology
  • Fruit / poisoning*
  • Fruit / virology
  • Hepatitis A / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis A / virology
  • Hepatitis A virus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis A virus / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires