Hepatitis E found in shellfish

 Clabby doos, part of the mussels family which can be found on Clyde and sea loch 

February 24, 2018 – Shellfish bought from stores in Glasgow and the east coast have been found to contain the hepatitis E virus (HEV).

BBC Scotland reports that a team from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) found traces of the virus in eight blue mussels and one oyster after testing 310 samples.

It is the first time HEV has been found in commercially sold shellfish harvested from Scottish waters.

Hepatitis E is generally a mild disease but can be more serious for pregnant women.

The infection usually manifests itself in flu-like symptoms, jaundice, tiredness, fever, and vomiting and can also cause problems for those contracting it through blood transfusions.

The shellfish tested in the study were bought from four supermarkets in the Glasgow area and a fishmonger on the east coast, although the individual outlets have not been named.

Researchers are now calling for further UK studies into food-borne transmission of the infection.

The most recent figures from 2016 show the number of laboratory-diagnosed cases of HEV in Scotland increased to 206 from just 13 in 2011.

Previous cases of HEV were linked to contaminated pork meat and soft fruit in Europe.

Prof Linda Scobie, principal investigator of the GCU study, said: “We don’t know at what point in the food processing chain this contamination occurred.

“There are significant gaps in our knowledge with HEV in the UK, we don’t know how much virus is required to cause infection, unlike the norovirus where you only need a few particles to cause acute illness.

“What we do know is more people are being diagnosed and if they have particular medical conditions then they are at risk of becoming very ill.”

Unlike oysters, which are traditionally eaten raw, mussels are less likely to pose a risk of HEV infection to consumers because they are normally cooked before being eaten.

The authors, writing in the academic journal Food and Environmental Virology, said: “The present study is the first to demonstrate the occurrence of HEV in commercially harvested Scottish mussels sold at retail, albeit at low levels, 2.9%.”

Clabby doos, writes Bill Heaney, were once the most popular – and perfectly legally come by – shellfish enjoyed by the West of Scotland working class.

They came on to the market after men (and it was nearly always exclusively men) had been on weekend jaunts to places like Whistlefield and Carrick Castle.

They brought the clabbys home by the pailful along with mussels and whelks and sold them by the dozen for the price of a pint.

Clabbys were a great delicacy for Scots, just as oysters once were for the workers in London’s East End. They cost next to nothing.

I had half a dozen oysters at a birthday dinner in Edinburgh once. They slipped down a treat.  What stuck in my throat was the price.  I shelled out £15 for just six oysters.

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