Yellow fruit making you jaundice? Call your Doc

17 Sep Yellow fruit making you jaundice? Call your Doc

In emergency rooms across BC and Alberta, brightly coloured fruits usually associated with sunshine and fun times (pina colada, anyone?) are causing some stirring concern.

Following a recent recall of pineapple products tainted with Hepatitis A, people exposed to the fruit have been hitting health care providers for testing.

The original warning, issued by health authorities at the beginning of September, stated Western Family’s ready-to-go pineapple chunks in a cup were the culprit, striking fear in the hearts of plenty of parents happily popping the conveniently packaged snacks into back-to-school lunches.

Which probably explains why an ER doctor I chatted with reported an unusual number of anxious parents showing up, their seemingly healthy kids in tow.

Over the course of four days, the doctor saw half a dozen patients, among them a nine-year-old boy busily playing on an iPad while his worried mother wrung her hands. When her son reported an upset stomach with nausea and a headache, his mother couldn’t help but recall news reports.

“The child appeared completely healthy, but understandably his mother was anxious given that he consumed pineapple products that might’ve been among those tainted,” the doctor said.

“We took blood work from both the boy and his mother because she was worried that she’d also eaten the pineapple. We reassured her, directing her to follow up with her family doctor for results.”

While anxiety is high, chances of infection are low. So far no illnesses have been reported but anytime there’s a public health concern, it’s time to brush up on the facts.

Hepatitis A is an infection caused by a virus that affects the liver. The virus is found in stool and is spread when a person eats food or drinks water from a contaminated source.

For example, if someone doesn’t wash his or her hands properly (scrubbing with soap for at least twenty seconds and rinsing with clean water before drying with a clean towel) after using the toilet and then prepares food, the food can become contaminated. This is why sometimes groups of people who have eaten at the same restaurant might get sick.

It’s also why daycare centers can be hotbeds for Hepatitis A, thanks to all those diaper-donning kids who might get poop on their hands, before merrily going about grabbing toys their toddling colleagues then pop into their mouths.

A blood test determines if the liver is inflamed or you have antibodies to hepatitis A, proving you’ve been exposed.

If that’s the case, it can take two to seven weeks before symptoms appear. These include fatigue, upset stomach, lack of appetite, weight loss, pain on the right side of the body (where your liver lives), fever, achy muscles and jaundiced (yellow) skin, dark urine or clay colored stools.

Dr. Rakel Kling, a medical officer with Interior Health, says that vaccinations are not typically recommended for the general public. “However we do recommend that people who are at increased risk of becoming infected with Hepatitis A get vaccinated.”

Those at risk include people traveling to countries with high rates of Hep A, people with chronic liver disease, those exposed to Hep A, such as people living in a household with someone who has it, and those who have eaten food contaminated with Hep A.

Which brings us back to the pineapple. Dr. Kling says you may have been exposed to Hep A if you ate the Western Family Brand or unbranded fresh pineapple chunks sold in ready-to-go cups, fresh peeled and cored pineapple, fresh fruit salad or fresh citrus salad purchased between August 11th and August 21st, 2017. All of the affected products had a best-before date of August 19th, 2017.

The medical officer advises if you have consumed any of these products fourteen to fifty days ago and experience sickness symptoms (or even if you think you’ve been exposed but are not yet showing signs), you need to visit your doctor to be tested or consult your local health authority. While the vaccine is only effective if it is administered within fourteen days of exposure, if you have received two vaccines in the past or have ever had Hep A, you are protected.

If you do test positive?

“Stay home from school, work, daycare or other activities,” Dr. Klink says, “and avoid making food for others. You will be called by someone from Public Health who will advise you about when you can return to your normal activities.”

While there is no specific treatment for Hep A, most people get better on their own, within weeks to a few months. You’ll need to get extra rest, drink plenty of water, and avoid illicit drugs and alcohol.

While it’s good to see bright skies at last, sadly a lot of sun-shiny pineapple pieces purchased at Save-On-Foods, Overwaitea, and PriceSmart Foods in are destined for the trash. Check your labels and throw that stuff out.

For more information contact interior health.