Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A is rare in New Zealand, and the risk of getting it from frozen berries is low. However, you should be aware of what symptoms to look for, and know what to do if you experience them.
What you should know
- If you’ve eaten frozen berries in the past 50 days, and you are otherwise feeling well, you do not need to seek advice from a health practitioner.
- If you’ve eaten frozen berries and you’ve become unwell within 50 days, you should tell your health practitioner what you’ve eaten, as you may need testing for hepatitis A.
- If you’re an older person, or you have chronic liver disease, and you’ve eaten frozen berries in the past 50 days, you may wish to discuss this with your healthcare practitioner even if you are feeling well. In most cases no other investigation or action will be required.
Always wash your hands before eating, handling, or preparing food. The Ministry for Primary Industries recommends that you briefly boil any frozen berries before eating them. If you’re cooking with berries, make sure that cooking exceeds 85 degrees for at least one minute. Simply washing the berries is not enough to deactivate the virus.
For comprehensive food safety advice, see the Ministry for Primary Industries website.
Symptoms of hepatitis A
Early symptoms of hepatitis A infection can be mistaken for the flu. Some people, especially children, may have no symptoms at all.
If you’ve been infected with hepatitis A, it will take 15–50 days for the symptoms to show up.
The most infectious period for hepatitis A is usually from 2 weeks before jaundice (skin yellowing) starts until 1 week after.
As the illness develops, the symptoms are:
- yellow discolouration of the eyes and/or skin
- loss of appetite
- abdominal discomfort
- fatigue, feeling tired
- dark wee.
See your health practitioner if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
When to consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis A
For most people, we do not recommend that you get a vaccination. This is because there is a low risk of getting hepatitis A from frozen berries, and because the vaccine is only effective if given soon after exposure to hepatitis A virus. Also, some people may already be immune from previous exposure, or a previous vaccination.
If you have a medical condition that puts you at high risk of complications from getting hepatitis A – for example, if you have chronic liver disease – you should talk to a healthcare practitioner about whether a hepatitis A vaccination is a good option for you.
There are some parts of the world where there is a higher risk of getting hepatitis A. If you’re travelling to these areas you should consider getting a vaccination.
- High risk areas include Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Middle East.
- Moderate-risk areas include the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe (including Russia) and parts of the Pacific.
Your healthcare practitioner can talk to you about whether this is appropriate for you, and what it will cost.
Get more information
- Talk to your health practitioner if you’re concerned
- See our advice about hepatitis A
- Check the Ministry for Primary Industries’ website for any food warnings or recalls, and further information about frozen imported berries
- Learn about food safety at FoodSmart