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How To Avoid Tuna Contaminated With Hepatitis A
Tuna fish is one of the most, if not the most, ubiquitous form of seafood in the world. Just about anywhere you go, you can find sandwich shops and restaurants selling dishes and products that contain tuna fish. But unfortunately, tuna has also become associated with risks of contamination from heavy metals and more recently, diseases like hepatitis A.
Recent reports began popping up on the internet about shipments of tuna steaks in 3 different US states that were contaminated with hepatitis A. Restaurants in Oklahoma, Texas and California were reported to have received shipments of tuna steaks which tested positive for the virus which causes the disease.
The shipments reportedly came from the Hilo Fish Company based in Hawaii, and were obtained by suppliers in Vietnam and the Philippines. The good news is that the contamination was identified relatively early, and the shipments were quickly recalled. It is possible that some customers were served the fish, although no cases of illness have been reported thus far.
Hepatitis A is not usually an emergency, and most people who are infected make a full recovery, but it can become more serious in some individuals. Symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, mild fever, dark urine, jaundice (yellow colored eyes and skin), and pain in the lower abdomen.
Hepatitis A can be damaging to the liver. In some cases, it can lead to liver failure, although this does not always happen. Symptoms typically appear in infected persons anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks after they are exposed to the virus.
There is no specific conventional treatment for hepatitis A. The disease typically lasts about 6 months and goes away on its own. The best solution for Hepatitis A is prevention. There is a standard vaccine that can be given at a regular checkup with your doctor, and there is also a post-exposure vaccine which is recommended for people who think they may have been exposed to the virus.
Luckily it appears that this infected tuna incident was contained for the most part, but it should still serve as a wakeup call for people to educate themselves about the risks of hepatitis A, and of unknowingly ingesting contaminated tuna.
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Other Health Risks Associated with Tuna
There are unfortunately other health risks also linked to tuna fish. We are not trying to discourage you from eating this fish. Tuna is a very healthy, protein-rich food. But it is an inconvenient fact that a lot of ocean fish like tuna can become contaminated by exposure to heavy metals like mercury.
The standard advice given for avoiding exposure to mercury and other heavy metals from fish is to simply eat less tuna fish. This applies to both canned fish as well as larger cuts of fish like tuna steak. However, organizations like the FDA and EPA tend to emphasize that it is more important for certain groups of people to reduce their intake of tuna, specifically pregnant and nursing women, women who may become pregnant, and very young children.
According to WebMD, these organizations recommend that the groups of people above limit their consumption of tuna to 12 ounces per week. However, the type of tuna is a relevant factor as well. The solid albacore tuna is known to have slightly higher levels of mercury contamination than the canned light tuna. The 12-ounce rule applies to the light tuna, but the EPA and FDA currently recommend only 6 ounces per week of albacore tuna for the above groups.
At the end of the day, fish is a good thing to eat, and that includes tuna. The combination of protein with high quality omega-3 fats (which many people do not get enough of) is simply too good to pass up. But it is common sense to educate yourself about any potential contaminations or risks associated with certain foods, and that goes for tuna fish as well. In general, tuna remains safe to eat, but just be aware of what the current health and nutrition recommendations are, and make sure your hepatitis A vaccine is current for peace of mind.