NSW Health has identified three locally acquired cases of hepatitis A in recent weeks, believed to have acquired their infections from consuming ‘Jordan River Dates’ brand of fresh Medjool dates.
NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority advise consumers who have purchased ‘Jordan River Dates’ to stop eating the product, throw the remainder of the product in the bin or return the dates to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Genetic testing of the infected people has identified a unique strain of hepatitis A not previously detected in Australia. The strain is identical to a virus strain that caused an outbreak of hepatitis A in the United Kingdom earlier this year, which was found to be caused by fresh Medjool dates imported from Jordan.
NSW Health is working with other States and Territories to determine if they also have locally acquired cases of hepatitis A with this strain.
“People who have eaten Jordan River Dates brand of fresh Medjool dates should watch out for symptoms and consult their local doctor as early as possible if symptoms appear,” NSW Health epidemiologist and Manager of Enteric Diseases, Keira Glasgow said.
“Hepatitis A is caused by a virus which affects the liver. This can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever and yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools. Symptoms of hepatitis A take from 15 to 50 days to appear after eating a contaminated product,” she said.
In most people the symptoms resolve after a few weeks with supportive treatment, mainly rest and fluids, but some people may be admitted to hospital.
“Those who have consumed the product in the past two weeks may benefit from hepatitis A vaccination, if not already protected. If you are unsure if you have been vaccinated in the past it is safe to be revaccinated. Please check with your doctor,” Ms Glasgow said.
NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said the Authority is working with the importer of the dates to minimise the risk to consumers. Details of product recalls are available at the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.
Further, the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has been assisting NSW with its investigations into the cases of hepatitis A by providing import data to identify the supplier of the contaminated dates in Jordan.
The department has applied an emergency holding order under the Imported Food Control Order 1992 to refer and hold all future imports of dates sourced from the implicated producer in Jordan.
Any consignments of Jordan River Dates imported into Australia will be held at the border until the competent government authority in Jordan can provide the department with assurance that the risk of hepatitis A contamination in further imports of dates from the implicated producer has been mitigated.
Three cases of hepatitis A have been notified to NSW Health in 2021, all of which are related to this outbreak. Two cases were unvaccinated, one reported being vaccinated but this could not be verified. If you have two doses of Hepatitis A virus vaccine you are immune for life.
For more information on hepatitis A visit our website.