ACT News

Canberra records first confirmed case of Hepatitis A infection

The ACT has recorded its first confirmed case of hepatitis A infection linked to the contamination of frozen berries. 

Callum Denness, 25, was taken to Canberra Hospital on Wednesday afternoon after eating about 1.6kg of frozen berries over a three-week period.

Mr Denness said he would remain in hospital for treatment and was in good spirits despite having jaundice.  

ACT deputy chief health officer Andrew Pengilley confirmed the case on Thursday morning but provided no clinical details about the patient. 

Seven cases have also been recorded in both Queensland and NSW, and another three in Victoria and one in Western Australia.

Australia's chief medical officer Professor Chris Baggoley said each case of hepatitis A had been investigated by state health authorities.


"The first isolated cases that have since been associated with the consumption of frozen berries were notified in January but a pattern of infection could only be established as subsequent cases came to light," he said.

"A key part of the investigation is collecting and analysing histories of exposure to possible sources of infection.

"When possible common exposures to a source of infection are identified, further detailed investigation either confirms or dismisses the possible common source."

Australian Medical Association ACT president Dr Elizabeth Gallagher said it was not surprising a hepatitis A case had been recorded in Canberra.

"There have been a total of 19 cases and that is consistent with the product coming from overseas and being distributed widely by the major supermarket chains," she said.

"The most important thing is for people to be aware of the contamination and not consume the berries and to be aware of the symptoms."

Dr Gallagher said it was important that those experiencing hepatitis A symptoms contacted their doctor.

"Hepatitis A can be spread through close contact so people need to be very careful to ensure infection control in their family," she said. 

An ACT Health spokeswoman said it was advised on February 14 that Patties Foods Ltd had recalled a number of frozen berry products due to a potential hepatitis A contamination.

"ACT Health has advised people to check their fridges and freezers for these products," the spokeswoman said.

"These products should not be consumed and consumers should return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund."

Hepatitis A infections can arise from sources other than food, such as poor hygiene or direct contact with infected faecal matter.

Symptoms of infection include abdominal pain, nausea, fever, yellow skin and eyes, and dark urine and pale faeces.

A federal Department of Health spokeswoman described the disease as not life-threatening and said most people recovered with rest and fluids.

It might, however, cause severe illness in older people, those with chronic liver disease and those who had poor immune systems. 

"Of those who catch hepatitis A, not all will develop all of the symptoms," the spokeswoman said.

"Many will have no symptoms at all, with children most likely to have a mild illness so they may not even be recognised as hepatitis A cases."