People are being reminded about the importance of good hand hygiene and to remain aware of the possible symptoms of hepatitis A.
The reminder has come from NHS Lanarkshire’s department of public health, environmental health officials and other agencies as part of the investigation and management of a hepatitis A outbreak.
The number of confirmed cases has increased from nine to 42.
Most of the cases recall having consumed food produced by the baker JB Christie before mid-April, through its outlets in Airdrie and Coatbridge.
As a precautionary measure, public health officials are continuing to raise awareness of the infection risk to help them identify other possible cases.
Dr Femi Oshin, NHS Lanarkshire consultant in public health medicine, said: “While our investigations continue, we want to remind people that although the risk of contracting the infection is low, anyone who has experienced a flu-like illness, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, abdominal pains or jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes or skin), should contact their GP or, if out of hours, contact NHS24 by dialling 111.
“The investigation and assessment at the bakery indicated that products produced and sold between Monday 20 March and Thursday 13 April may have been affected, which is why we are advising anyone who ate bakery products which were produced by JB Christie between these dates, and who experiences the above symptoms, to contact their GP or, if out of hours, contact NHS24 on 111.
"A special helpline has been set up to help the public with general information about hepatitis A and about this outbreak. The freephone number for the helpline is 0800 028 2816 and it is open from 8am to 10pm daily.
“The bakery fully cooperated with our investigation and undertook additional control measures agreed by NHS Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire Council, which enabled it to resume trading on Tuesday 2 May.”
As an additional precaution, the bakery also voluntarily disposed of all its fresh ingredients and any food stuffs which could transmit infection.
There are currently no public health concerns regarding the safety of food produced by the bakery.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection which leads to inflammation of the liver and can cause mild to severe illness.
The infection clears with time and usually there are no long term effects although a very small proportion of people could develop serious complications.
It can take between 15 and 50 days from the time the virus enters the body to the development of symptoms, so new cases are likely to continue to be identified in the coming weeks.
All 42 cases have had a medical assessment and of those patients who required hospital admission almost all have been discharged home.
Dr Oshin continued: “Hepatitis A is usually a food borne virus which can be spread by hand to mouth contact when there is poor hand hygiene.
“As such, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the hepatitis A infection is good hand hygiene - thorough hand washing and drying.
“We would like to remind everyone that they can protect themselves by washing their hands, particularly after visiting the toilet and before preparing or eating food.”
Hepatitis A key facts
• Hepatitis A is a viral infection which leads to inflammation of the liver and can cause mild to severe illness.
• The symptoms are generally a flu-like illness, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, abdominal pains or jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes or skin). The infection will clear with time and there are no long-term effects.
• The infection can be caused by hand to mouth contact of something that has been contaminated by the faeces (stools) of someone with hepatitis A. This could be food or water or by putting the hands in the mouth. This is different from Hepatitis B or C which are blood borne viruses.
• Almost everyone recovers fully from hepatitis A with a lifelong immunity. A very small proportion of people infected with hepatitis A could develop serious complications.
• A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A.
• Safe water supply, food safety, improved sanitation, hand washing and the hepatitis A vaccine are the most effective ways to combat the disease.
For further information on Hepatitis A visit NHS Inform at www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/hepatitis-a
For more information about hand hygiene visit the Scottish National Hand Hygiene Campaign website http://www.washyourhandsofthem.com/hand-hygiene--you.aspx