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Experts Play Down Hepatitis E Risk from Pork Products

November 12, 2014
Public Health

pigDespite figures from a recent survey showing that up to 10% of sausages could be infected with the hepatitis E virus (HEV), leading scientists have played down the risk to public health.

The research took samples of 63 sausages, finding that six of them posed a potential risk. Professor Richard Tedder from University College London told the BBC there is no cause for alarm. “This figure was taken from a small survey (63 sausages), and is unlikely to be representative of the UK as a whole,” he said. “Given what is known about the prevalence of high viraemia at the time of slaughter in the UK, a more representative figure would be about 1 in 100, or 1% of sausages, and any risk of infection can be alleviated by ensuring sausages are cooked thoroughly.”

Figures from Public Health England show there has been a sharp rise in cases of the infection in the past four years, with 691 cases being notified in 2013. The trend looks likely to continue, with 461 cases being identified in the first six months of this year. The disease can give rise to liver damage although serious cases are rare; other symptoms include jaundice, tiredness, fever and abdominal pain. HEV is the most common virus passed from animals to humans in the UK.