Research – Hepatitis A outbreak in Australia linked to imported Medjool dates, June–September 202

Gov Au

Abstract

Imported, minimally processed food products have been historically associated with several hepati-tis A outbreaks in Australia. Here, we report the first known hepatitis A outbreak in Australia linked to consumption of imported fresh Medjool dates. Between June and September 2021, six genetically identical hepatitis A cases were notified in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. All cases reported date consumption during their exposure period. The implicated dates were positive for hepatitis A virus (HAV) by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Rapid detection of this outbreak and the swift implementation of control measures was facilitated by two key factors. Firstly, Australian international border closures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pan-demic meant that a common locally-acquired, as opposed to travel-acquired, source for cases was strongly suspected. Secondly, prompt awareness of a hepatitis A outbreak in the United Kingdom (which was found to be associated with date consumption) allowed for early hypothesis generation and investigation. This paper details the epidemiological and microbiological factors involved in this outbreak investigation and the actions taken to mitigate public health risk.

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