The example of hepatitis A

Written by Federica Tavassi on .

mirtilli epatite a

Food pathologies linked to viruses are on the rise. Although there are many different causes, all can be traced to inadequate personal and/or environmental hygiene

During their commercial life food products can be subjected to different types of contamination that pose the potential risk to consume a food that has been adulterated and no longer healthful.


The different types of contamination depend on the contamination agent, which can be chemical, physical, or biological. With chemical contamination, the food is adulterated by undesired chemical substances that can be derived from the environment (pollution, poisonous products used in agriculture, phyto- pharmaceuticals and plant protection products, etc.), the processing and cleaning phases (chemical compounds used inadequately for the cleaning and sanitization of workplaces), and also from products that come into contact with the foods (transfer of harmful compounds from so-called FCM – food contact materials). In addition to the decidedly more rare contamination by radiation, physical contamination much more frequently involves contamination by foreign bodies: packaging fragments, grains of sand, stone or soil, chips of glass, plastic, ceramic, or wood, minute parts of animals such as fur and claws, jewelry articles or portions of the same, etc.

Lastly, there is biological contamination, which is the most diversified of the three, and consists of micro-organisms like bacteria, parasites, moulds, and viruses that can infect or proliferate in food in this way giving rise to pathologies linked to the ingestion of such products. Even if bacterial contaminations are clearly the most well-known and numerous, they are not the only ones that affect public health. Food pathologies supported by viral pathogens are equally frequent and posing an increasing risk to public health all over the world. Some estimates report an increase in the incidence of food pathologies of viral origin.

The human and other factors

Viruses are minute infective micro-organisms that may have a DNA or RNA genome enclosed in a protein coating. Unlike bacteria, viruses can multiply only inside the living cells of other organisms by exploiting their cellular structures for the purpose of viral multiplication. Many viruses demonstrate elevated resistance to forms of stress such as heat, drying, freezing, and UV radiation, etc. and can survive for long periods of time inside foods or environments. Most viral infections are triggered by contact between humans, whereas transmission through foods is a lesser, but still present risk in the general context of pathologies of viral origin. In this case, the carrier of the infection is food. Foods that can carry viral diseases include shellfish (such as oysters, mussels), crustaceans and their products that are raised and/or harvested in waters near human sewage drainage ditches (such as those used to treat plants with waste waters); fruit and vegetables grown on land fertilized with fertilizers of animal origin and contaminated water, and insufficiently cooked meats, such as pork. All the viruses transmitted by foods are derived from a human or an animal intestine, and spread in the environment through feces or other body fluids. Unlike bacteria, which can multiply in foods directly, viral contamination takes place primarily indirectly because viruses are incapable of replicating directly in foods. Viruses can therefore be transmitted by food processing personnel, who if they are infected and do not observe good hygiene and handling practices can contaminate food products. Virus components can also be transmitted by cross-contamination, whenever, for example, foods accidentally come into contact with fertilizers of animal origin, human sewage, or dirty water contaminated by sewage.

Blame it on the berries

Most food sicknesses caused by viruses are linked to a fairly limited number of viruses, such as Norovirus, Calcivirus, Rotavirus, and Astrovirus, for example, which give rise to gastroenteritis, but which do not easily lead to epidemic, or the viruses of Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E, which trigger more complex pathologies.

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV), for example, has recently returned to the ranks of the accused for having given rise in the last three years to one of the most extended epidemic of Hepatitis A linked to food consumption in recent times that struck Italy as well. The epidemic had nearly 1800 cases and involved various companies that produced the contaminated product: frozen berries. The epidemic seems to have started in a few companies based in Eastern Europe, Poland and Bulgaria, in particular, that produced frozen red berries contaminated by Hepatitis A virus. The contamination was traced to the use of unclean water during the phases of processing (freezing) and primary production of forest fruits and red berries. The wide use of these berries in both cooked and uncooked pastry products lead to the rapid spread of the contagion.

Not terribly serious, but bothersome

Viral hepatitis A is an acute infectious disease caused by the HAV virus, a member of the Heparnavirus Genus of the Picornaviridae Family that attacks liver cells The virus is spread around the world and may manifest itself in both sporadic and epidemic form. In Italy, the disease is well known and very frequent in its southern regions, where the practice of eating raw shellfish is historically widespread. As recent reports show, however, epidemics or sporadic cases can occur all throughout national territory and also linked to the consumption of other foods (vegetables or fruits) or contaminated water (well water, for example). Associated with the consumption of unsuitable food in most cases, the disease is caused by the failure to respect the rules of good hygiene with the consequent contamination of foods and water by feces in which the HAV virus is frequently found. The consumption of water or raw or insufficiently cooked food, especially mollusks, contaminated with fecal material containing the virus exposes people to the risk of developing the disease. The Hepatitis A virus causes abrupt disturbances of short duration. The pathology and its symptoms appear in slightly different ways depending on the age of the patient. Children may not display any symptoms at all, whereas in adults, the sickness may appear with symptoms similar to those of light flu, generally from 2 to 7 weeks after contact with the virus. These symptoms are usually fatigue and exhaustion, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, headache, muscle pain, and abdominal pain. As the disease develops, other symptoms appear, such as the dark coloration of the urine and a light color of feces, jaundice, and itchiness. Serious complications of Hepatitis A are extremely rare, and most people afflicted see a spontaneous remission of the symptoms within 1 or 2 months.

Indispensable precautions

At the clinical level, the prevention of the disease requires immunization with the use of vaccines that give long-term protection or immunoglobulin for prophylactic and preventive purpose in those subject to greatest risk. Above all, however, prevention means applying basic personal hygiene procedures and good hygiene practices in workplaces where foods and beverages are handled. Practicing good personal hygiene, in fact, is the best way to limit contagion and the spread of Hepatitis A: always wash your hands with soap and hot water immediately after using the bathroom or changing a baby’s diaper and before preparing or eating foods. Hands must be washed thoroughly, and therefore also under the fingernails, and in no less than 60 seconds. It is also extremely important to wash fruits and vegetables very well before eating them and keeping the temperature in the refrigerator at 4 °C or less and the freezer temperature at a –18 °C or lower. Pre-cooked, perishable, or ready-to-eat foods should be eaten as soon as possible, and meat, fish, and poultry should be kept separate from other foods. Foods of animal origin must be cooked well, especially shellfish (for at least 2’ at 90 °C). Hands, knives, and cutting boards must be washed after handling raw food, including meat, fish, and poultry.



Hepatit a örneği Bakteri kaynaklı beslenme rahatsızlıkları artışta.

Birçok oluşum nedeni var ama bu nedenler sonunda hep kişisel ve/veya çevresel hijyen eksikliği ile bağlantılı

Gıda ürünleri, raf ömürleri boyunca çeşitli virütik bulaşmalara maruz kalabilirler. Bu tür bozulmalar tüketici için tehlike teşkil eder. Tüketici muhtemelen artık sağlıklı olmayan sahte bir gıda ürünü tüketme riski altındadır. Gıda bozulmaları bulaştırıcı faktöre bağlı olarak üç farklı tipte olabilirler: kimyasal, fiziksel ve biyolojik. Biyolojik nedenlere bağlı gıda maddesi bozulmalarında bakteriler, parazitler, mantarlar ve virüsler gibi mikroorganizmalar gıda maddelerine bulaşıp burada çoğalırlar ve bu tür ürünlerin tüketilmesi sonucunda gıda zehirlenmelerine yol açarlar. En çok bilinen ve rastlanan türü bakterilere bağlı olarak meydana gelen gıda bozulmaları olsa da kamu sağlığını tehtid eden tek tür bu değildir. Aslında viral bulaştırıcılara bağlı olarak meydana gelen gıda zehirlenmelerine de sıklıkla rastlanır ve dünya çapında halk sağlığını riske atan bir faktördür.


Bakterilerin neden olduğu gıda hastalıklarının çoğunluğu bir elin parmaklarını geçmeyecek sayıda virüsten kaynaklanıyor. Mesela gastroenterit ile sonuçlanan ve genellikle salgına dönüşmeyen Norovirus, Calcivirus, Rotavirus, e Astrovirus ya da daha kompleks hastalıkara yol açan Hepatit A ve Hepatit E virüsleri gibi.

Düzgün bir kişisel hijyen uygulamak aslında Hepatit A virüsünün bulaşması ve yayılmasını engellemek için en iyi yoldur: eller tuvaleti kullandıktan ya da çocuk bezi değiştirdikten sonra, gıda maddelerine dokunmadan önce mutlaka sabun ve ılık su ile yıkanmalıdır. Etraflı bir temizlik için tırnak içleri unutulmamalı ve yıkama işlemi 60 saniyeden az sürmemelidir. Ayrıca meyve ve sebzeler tüketilmeden önce çok iyi yıkanmalıdır, doğru bir muhafaza için buzdolabı ısısı 4°C veya altında derin dondurucu ise –18 °C ya da altında tutulmalıdır. Raf ömrü kısa, önceden pişirilmiş ya da hazır gıdaları mümkün olan en kısa sürede tüketmek gerekir. Çiğ et, balık ve kümes hayvanı ürünleri diğer yiyeceklerden ayrı muhafaza edilmelidir. Hayvansal ürünler, özellikle deniz mahsulleri tüketilmeden önce çok iyi pişirilmelidir (90 ° C’de en az 2 dakika) , et, balık ve kümes hayvanları da dahil olmak üzere pişmemiş gıdayla çalıştıktan sonra eller, bıçak ve kesme tahtası mutlaka yıkanmalıdır.

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