Molecular epidemiology of foodborne hepatitis A outbreaks in the United States, 2003

Academic Article


  • Background. Molecular epidemiologic investigations can link geographically separate foodborne hepatitis A outbreaks but have not been used while field investigations are in progress. In 2003, outbreaks of foodborne hepatitis A were reported in multiple states. Methods. Case-control studies were conducted in 3 states. Hepatitis A virus was sequenced from serologic specimens from individuals associated with outbreaks and from individuals concurrently ill with hepatitis A in nonoutbreak settings in the United States and Mexico. Results. Case-control studies in Tennessee (TN), North Carolina (NC), and Georgia (GA) found green onions to be associated with illness among restaurant patrons (TN: odds ratio [OR], 65.5 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 8.9-482.5; NC: OR, 2.4 [95% CI, 0.3-21.9]; GA: OR, 20.9 [95% CI, 3.9-110.3]). Viral sequences from TN case patients differed by 2 nt, compared with those from case patients in NC and GA. A third sequence, differing from the TN and GA/NC sequences by 1 nt, was identified among case patients in a subsequent outbreak in Pennsylvania. Each outbreak sequence was identical to ≥1 sequence isolated from northern Mexican resident(s) with hepatitis A. The sources of green onions served in restaurants in TN and GA were 3 farms in northern Mexico. Conclusions. Ongoing viral strain surveillance facilitated the rapid implementation of control measures. Incorporation of molecular epidemiologic methods into routine hepatitis A surveillance would improve the detection of hepatitis A outbreaks and increase our understanding of hepatitis A epidemiology in the United States. © 2005 by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved.
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    Author List

  • Amon JJ; Devasia R; Xia G; Nainan OV; Hall S; Lawson B; Wolthuis JS; MacDonald PDM; Shepard CW; Williams IT
  • Start Page

  • 1323
  • End Page

  • 1330
  • Volume

  • 192
  • Issue

  • 8