Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 25 February 2018

Authorities yet to establish if Irish cases of deadly 'Brexit virus' are linked to pigs

Cases of the virus are on the rise in the UK, where the potentially deadly disease has been linked to sausages made with EU meat.
Cases of the virus are on the rise in the UK, where the potentially deadly disease has been linked to sausages made with EU meat.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Food Safety Authority (FSAI) has confirmed that Ireland does have cases of the hepatitis E virus which has been dubbed a ‘Brexit virus’ in the UK.

Cases of the virus are on the rise in the UK, where the potentially deadly disease has been linked to sausages made with EU meat.

The strain of hepatitis E has been linked to pig farms on the Continent after the tropical virus mutated to infect livestock.

Public Health England reported the number of severe cases has almost trebled since 2010, with 1,244 reported in 2016 to 368 six years earlier.

The virus causes a flu-like illness and in severe circumstances, could cause death.

Once ingested, the virus is carried to the liver, where it attacks the liver and nerves, causing people with weakened immune systems to become seriously ill.

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

This strain has been linked to pig farms in France, Holland, Germany and Denmark and is only killed in meat if people cook it for longer than usual.

Most people who come into contact with the disease contract a nasty, flu-like cold.

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Experts in the UK predict around 10 per cent of pork imported from Europe could be infected with the 'Brexit virus', which is affecting more than 60,000 in Britain annually.

Humans can catch the disease by eating undercooked pork, sausages, pork pies and bacon.

In Ireland, the FSAI says hepatitis E has only become a notifiable disease in the last 18 months and therefore, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has little data on historic infection rates to see if they are rising. 

“We do not yet know if the type of hepatitis E virus we see in people is the same as the one found in pigs.

“To address this, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has funded a three year study into hepatitis E looking at on farm prevalence,” it said.

The €600,000 FoVIRA project will determine the prevalence Hepatitis E virius in Irish pigs/pig products and of Hepatitis E virus, hepatitis A virus, Norovirus and Sapovirus in Irish soft fruit and shellfish.

It is hoped the data generated will contribute to risk exposure assessments and the identification of potential control points in the food chain for viral foodborne pathogens.

The capability, and the network of expertise developed, will provide a sustainable foundation to address the emerging threat to food safety and the food industry posed by enteric viruses.

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