Public Health Alerts
Visit this Alerts page regularly to keep abreast of the latest health developments in our region as they unfold. On this page you will find important information on public health issues in the ACT.
18.09.18 UPDATE: Three brands of strawberries confirmed in contamination incident
If in doubt, throw them out. Otherwise, make sure you chop before you chomp.
An investigation of several incidents of strawberries contaminated by the presence of sewing needles inserted in to the fruit is being led nationally by Queensland Health.
There have been confirmed incidents of contamination affecting the “Berry Licious”, “Berry Obsession” and “Donnybrook” brands of strawberries. These brands have now been withdrawn from sale.
Several other brands have been implicated and all reports of contaminated strawberries are being fully investigated.
Acting ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman advises that anyone who has strawberries should check which brand they are.
“Canberrans who may still have punnets of “Donnybrook”, “Berry Licious” and “Berry Obsession” branded strawberries should throw them out or return them to the place of purchase.”
Other brands of strawberries are believed to be safe to eat but people should cut the fruit for consuming to be sure. People who have purchased fresh strawberries and then frozen them without the packaging for later use should be particularly cautious.
If you are concerned about your health, speak to your GP.
If anyone discovers their fruit is contaminated, they should keep the fruit and any packaging and contact ACT Police on 131 444.
13.09.18 UPDATE: Warning: Berry Obsession & Berry Licious strawberries
ACT Health has received updated information this morning that punnets of fresh Berry Licious and Berry Obsession strawberries were supplied to ACT Woolworths stores but as of midday yesterday, these have been withdrawn from shelves.
ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly advises that consumers should check their fridges and freezers for Berry Licious or Berry Obsession strawberries and dispose of them or any food that may contain these products.
If you are concerned about your health, speak to your GP.
If anyone discovers their fruit is contaminated they should contact the Health Protection Service on 6205 1700.
12.09.18 - Warning after needles found in strawberries in Queensland and Victoria
Warning after needles found in strawberries in Queensland and Victoria
ACT Health is advising Canberrans who have purchased punnets of fresh Berry Licious or Berry Obsession brand strawberries to throw them out, after needles were found in some berries in Queensland and Victoria.
ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said while there had been no contaminated strawberries reported in the ACT, anyone who had fresh strawberries should check which brand they were.
For more information please see the media release
31.08.18 - Warning to Canberrans about potentially dangerous weight-loss products
ACT Health is warning Canberrans to be aware of potentially dangerous weight-loss products being marketed to the fitness and bodybuilding communities. The warning mirrors advice provided by NSW Health about the dangers of these products.
These products, known as ‘shredders’, may contain the highly toxic chemical 2.4-dinitrophenol, also known as DNP. DNP can cause a range of serious medical problems, including muscle breakdown, kidney failure, seizures and coma. There is no antidote and even with medical care, people can and have died using products containing the chemical.
Products marketed online advertised as featuring DNP should be avoided, as should any product from an unverified source that is promoted as a weight-loss agent. People can become seriously unwell within hours of ingesting DNP.
In cases of known or suspected ingestion, phone Emergency Triple Zero (000) immediately.
For more information please see the media release
30.08.18 – Measles case in ACT
ACT Health has been notified of a case of measles. The individual acquired the infection on a recent overseas trip. No further cases linked to this one have been notified to ACT Health to date.
Identified contacts are being followed up in line with national guidelines. Members of the public may also have been exposed to the case at the following locations:
- Friday, 24 August 2018 - South.Point (Tuggeranong Hyperdome) - food court and Bags to Go store.
- Saturday 25 August 2018 - South.Point (Tuggeranong Hyperdome) - food court and Bags to Go store.
- Sunday 26 August 2018 - Canberra Outlet Centre, Fyshwick - RM Williams and Canterbury stores.
- Tuesday 28 August 2018, morning - South.Point (Tuggeranong Hyperdome) - Bags to Go store, Discount Drug Store and Woolworths.
People who attended these premises at these times should be aware for signs and symptoms of measles from now until 15 September 2018. Anyone with symptoms of measles who need to seek medical advice, should advise their health care provider before they arrive so that appropriate infection control precautions can be put in place to stop the spread of the infection.
The symptoms of measles may include fever, tiredness, runny nose, sore eyes and a cough, followed by a rash which appears 2-7 days later. People generally develop symptoms 7-18 days after being exposed to a person with infectious measles, with 10 days being more common. People are infectious from 4 days before they develop a rash until 4 days after.
Measles is a serious disease and is highly contagious among people who are not fully immunised. This is a strong reminder that the best way to protect yourself is with two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine (MMR).
21.05.18 – Availability of influenza (Flu) vaccine
ACT Health is aware of nationwide supply issues with some flu vaccines. There has been a record uptake of the vaccination across the country and in the ACT. This is good news as it means the community is understanding the dangers of influenza and importance of getting the flu shot. However, unprecedented demand for seasonal influenza vaccination has impacted the availability of supplies.
We are closely monitoring influenza vaccine stock for people in the ACT who are eligible to receive free, government-funded vaccine because of their increased risk of complications from influenza. These groups are:
children aged 6 months to under 5 years;
adults aged ≥65 years;
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander persons aged ≥15 years; and
all persons aged ≥6 months who have certain medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications e.g. severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes.
ACT Health officials are working together with the Federal Department of Health and other jurisdictions to manage this issue. We would like to reassure the ACT community that we will continue to work with the Federal Department of Health and vaccine suppliers and do everything possible to ensure supply is maintained. The Federal Department of Health is also working closely with companies to ensure additional vaccines are brought into Australia.
We will continue to provide further information for the public as this issue develops. For more information see http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/mr-yr18-dept-dept06.htm
02.05.18 - Death Cap mushroom alert due to recent heavy rain
ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Paul Kelly, today alerted the community to the potential of Death Cap mushrooms growing around the ACT due to the recent heavy rainfall.
Dr Kelly said Death Cap mushrooms are extremely poisonous and can easily be confused with other wild mushrooms and the community are reminded not to pick or eat any wild mushrooms.
"Death Cap mushrooms are typically seen in Canberra from late March, although they can be seen at other times during the year dependent on weather conditions," Dr Kelly said.
"With the recent heavy rain, we are reminding all Canberrans not to pick or eat any wild mushrooms and to pass this message on to family and friends who are visiting or new to Canberra.
"It can be extremely difficult, even for the most experienced collectors, to distinguish a small Death Cap mushroom from an edible mushroom. For this reason, all mushrooms should be purchased from a reputable supplier.
"All parts of the Death Cap mushroom are poisonous, and eating just one can be fatal. Cooking the Death Cap mushroom does not make it safe to eat.
"Anyone who suspects they may have eaten Death Cap mushrooms should seek urgent medical attention at a hospital emergency department. The sooner treatment can begin, the better the patient’s chances of survival," Dr Kelly said.
In Canberra, Death Cap mushrooms grow mainly near established oak trees in the wet, warm weather typically observed in late summer and autumn.
Important information about the Death Cap mushroom is available at http://www.health.act.gov.au/datapublications/fact-sheets/environmental-health
20.04.2018 – Safety advisory – risk to patients with latex allergy
Consumers and health professionals are advised that, for the 2018 influenza season, natural rubber latex is present in the sheath covering the needle of trivalent influenza vaccine Fluad. Fluad is available for people aged 65 years and over through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
While reactions to latex are rare, anyone who has a severe allergy to latex should not receive Fluad. Patients 65 and over can still be safely vaccinated with an alternative trivalent influenza vaccine, Fluzone High-Dose through the NIP.
Please note there are no safety concerns regarding the vaccine itself.
If you, or someone you provide care for, has an allergy to latex, advise your health professional of this fact before receiving any influenza vaccination.
There is an alternative product available on the NIP for those aged 65 and over.
If you have any questions or concerns about this issue, talk to your health professional.
For more information:
Commonwealth Department of Health - https://beta.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation
18.04.2018 – Multi-drug-resistant (MDR) gonorrhoea
- The Australian Department of Health has this week issued a statement regarding Multi-Drug Resistant Gonorrhoea.
- Two cases of Multi-drug-resistant (MDR) gonorrhoea have been detected in Australia. One of the cases had recent sex in Southeast Asia.
- Drug resistant gonorrhoea exists in several countries around the world, including Australia. However, these latest cases and a recent one in the UK appear to be the first reported that are resistant to ALL of the antibiotics that have been in routine use against gonorrhoea.
- Multi-drug resistant strains of gonorrhoea can be difficult to treat. Effective treatment of gonococcal infections is important to prevent further spread.
- There have been no cases of MDR gonorrhoea reported in the ACT.
- The number of gonorrhoea cases has been increasing in all Australian States and Territories, including the ACT, over the last few years.
- ACT Health is closely monitoring the situation, and will continue to follow-up all cases of gonorrhoea to ensure effective treatment and testing is undertaken.
- Whether at home or overseas, the best way to prevent gonorrhoea and other sexually transmissible infections is to practise safe sex, even if you and/or your partner don’t have symptoms.
- People most at risk of gonorrhoea are men who have unsafe sex with men and males and females who have unsafe heterosexual sex.
- Untreated gonorrhoea can have serious complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women.
- For more information about gonorrhoea, please see your GP or contact the Canberra Sexual Health Centre on 6244 2184, or see the ACT Health Fact Sheet: http://www.health.act.gov.au/sites/default/files//Fact%20sheets/Gonorrhoea.pdf
- Further information for the public and clinicians is available from the Australian Government Department of Health website, and can be accessed at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-gonorrhoea.htm
12.04.2018 – Update on Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen pomegranate
The case of hepatitis A infection in the ACT that was under investigation has been confirmed as part of the outbreak linked to imported frozen pomegranates. The latest information on the outbreak cases can be found here.
A precautionary recall of Creative Gourmet Pomegranate Arils sold at Coles supermarkets has been undertaken and more information can be found on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.
ACT Health is advising consumers who have bought this product to not consume it and to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Hepatitis A is very rarely transmitted by blood transfusion, although this is not known to have occurred in Australia. People who have had confirmed hepatitis A are excluded from donating blood for 12 months after their infection. If you consumed Creative Gourmet pomegranate Arils with a best before date up to and including 21/03/2020 you are excluded from donating blood for two months. If you consumed the Creative Gourmet brand pomegranate Arils and have already donated blood, please contact the Blood Service on 13 14 95.
Refer to this ACT Health fact sheet for more information about hepatitis A.
07.04.2018 – Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen pomegranate
ACT Health is investigating a case of hepatitis A in the ACT that may be linked to a cluster of cases in NSW, in which seven people have consumed imported frozen pomegranate sold through Coles stores.
ACT Health is advising consumers who have bought imported frozen pomegranate from Coles supermarkets to not eat the product and dispose of it.
Overnight, NSW Health has identified seven locally acquired cases of hepatitis A, all consumed from an imported product purchased from Coles.
NSW Health is working with other states and territories to determine the prevalence in other jurisdictions and ACT Health is assisting with this investigation.
Symptoms of hepatitis A take from 15 to 50 days to develop. It is caused by a virus that spreads in contaminated food or through poor hygiene.
Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fever and yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools.
People who have eaten frozen pomegranate from Coles should consult their local general practitioner as early as possible should symptoms appear.
Those who have consumed the product in the past two weeks may benefit from hepatitis A vaccination, if not already protected. If you are unsure if you have been vaccinated in the past it is safe to be re-vaccinated – check with your local general practitioner.
In most people the symptoms of hepatitis A resolve after a few weeks with supportive treatment, mainly rest and fluids.
The NSW Food Authority is working with Coles and state and Commonwealth agencies to minimise the risk to consumers which appears to be linked to an imported frozen product. The NSW Food Authority says fresh pomegranate is not implicated nor Australian grown frozen pomegranate products.
Refer to this ACT Health fact sheet for more information about hepatitis A.
20.03.2018 – Listeriosis warning for rockmelons
States and territories across Australia are continuing to work together to investigate the listeriosis outbreak, which has been linked to a rockmelon grower in NSW (Rombola Family Farms). All affected product has been removed from the supply chain and the company has voluntarily ceased production. To date, the outbreak has affected 17 people nationally and there have been 4 deaths.
There have been no cases reported in the ACT so far this year.
Listeriosis is a serious illness caused by bacteria called Listeria and infection usually occurs from eating contaminated foods. The bacteria can be present in raw foods or foods may become contaminated after processing or cooking.
Those considered to be at high risk for listeriosis include:
- pregnant women;
- elderly people; and
- people with underlying health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and HIV.
These people should avoid eating rockmelon and also discard any rockmelon they may already have in their home. Other foods that should be avoided by those at high risk of listeriosis include:
- soft and semi-soft cheese (e.g. ricotta, brie)
- cold cooked chicken
- manufactured and cold meats
- soft serve ice-cream (including in milkshakes)
- cold, smoked and raw seafood
- prepared salads (e.g. from food courts, supermarkets)
- unpasteurised dairy products
- ready-to-eat foods such as prepared sandwiches, sushi and bain-marie foods
People at risk should consult their local doctor as early as possible should symptoms appear. Symptoms include:
- muscle aches; and
- sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms.
For more information see:
- NSW Food Authority’s Media Release
02.11.2017 – Second case of measles notified to ACT Health
Dr Paul Kelly, ACT Chief Health Officer, is urging Canberrans to be aware of the symptoms of measles after two cases have been confirmed in the last 2 weeks.
The second case of measles notified to ACT Health visited several public locations in Canberra while infectious, prior to their diagnosis.
Specific exposure sites include:
Thursday 26 October 2017
Spar Express Supermarket - Ngunnawal Shopping Centre
IGA Ngunnawal - Ngunnawal Shopping Centre
Coles Amaroo – Amaroo Village
Friday 27 October 2017
Ngunnawal Pharmacy - Ngunnawal Shopping Centre - approximately 3.00pm
Kmart Gungahlin - Gunghalin Shopping Centre - from 4.00pm – 5.00pm
Hogs Breath Café - Woden – from 8.00pm – 09.30pm
Sunday 29 October 2017
Coles Gungahlin – Gunghalin Village - approximately 6.00pm
Cold Rock Gungahlin - Gunghalin Village - from 6.00pm – 6.45pm
The first case of measles notified to ACT Health visited the following locations:
Tuesday 17 October 2017
Asian Noodle House -Dickson - 7.00pm - 8.30pm
Chemist on Northborne – Canberra City - 7.45pm and 8.45pm
We strongly encourage people who were in the same locations as these cases to keep a close watch for symptoms. These include fever, tiredness, runny nose, sore eyes and a cough, followed by a rash, which appears 2-7 days later.
People generally develop symptoms 7-18 days after being exposed to a person with infectious measles, with 10 days being more common. People are infectious from 5 days before they develop a rash until 4 days after.
Information about measles can be found at: www.health.act.gov.au/publications-reports/fact-sheets/measles
03.05.2017 - Recall of Absorb Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold (BVS) System
ACT Health is alerting the community to the hazard alert and recall for Absorb Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold (BVS) System that has been issued by Abbott Vascular Australia, in consultation with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Absorb BVS System is an implanted medical device (stent) that opens blocked coronary arteries and is fully absorbed by the body overtime.
The device is also being removed from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
The decision to undertake this recall is in response to data from some recent studies showing an elevated rate of major adverse cardiac events, specifically heart attack and blood clot, when compared to patients treated with another alternate stent.
ACT Health is advising people who have received an Absorb BVS System and are concerned to talk to their health professional to ensure that they are receiving appropriate treatment and know the signs and symptoms of heart attack and blood clot.
If people are experiencing any new cardiac-related symptoms, such as irregular heartbeats, chest pain, or shortness of breath, seek immediate medical attention.
In the coming days, ACT Health will be providing any effected patients further information and advising them to speak with their health professional.
Abbott Vascular Australia has written to health professionals who have implanted Absorb BVS System to provide them further information about this issue, including details of the recall procedure.
Consumers and Health Professionals with concerns about this issue are also advised they can contact Abbott Vascular Australia on 1800 550 939.
Further information about the recall is available on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website at: www.tga.gov.au/alert/absorb-bioresorbable-vascular-scaffold-system
11.04.17 – Death Cap mushrooms found in Canberra
ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Paul Kelly today alerted Canberrans that Death Cap mushrooms have been found in the ACT.
“Death Cap mushrooms are extremely poisonous and can be easily confused with other wild mushrooms”, Dr Kelly said.
With the recent wet weather, Death Cap mushrooms have been found in several locations across Canberra. They grow mainly near established oak trees in mild, moist weather.
The Chief Health Officer warned the public not to pick or eat any wild mushrooms.
All parts of the Death Cap mushrooms are poisonous and eating even part of a mushroom could be fatal. It is also important to note that cooking the Death Cap mushroom does not make it safe to eat.
Anyone who suspects they may have eaten a Death Cap mushroom should seek urgent medical attention at a hospital emergency department.
The sooner treatment begins, the better the patient’s chances of survival.
Since 2002, there have been four fatalities associated with Death Cap mushrooms in the ACT. During this time, there have also been a number of poisonings associated with Death Cap mushrooms.
The community is reminded to remain vigilant and tell friends and family who are visiting or new to Canberra not to pick or eat any wild mushrooms. For safety, purchase all mushrooms from a reputable supplier.
A Fact Sheet providing important information about the Death Cap mushroom is available online.
04.04.17 – Food Recall
FSANZ FOOD RECALL REFERENCE: FSANZ 2017/18
- Organix Finger Foods Baby Biscuits 54g
- Creamy Vanilla Baby Biscuits - Best Before (all dates up to and including) 10.10.2017
- Strawberry Baby Biscuits - Best Before (all dates up to and including) 05.10.2017
- Banana Baby Biscuits - Best Before (all dates up to and including) 13.09.2017
A recall of the above products is being conducted. The products have been available for sale at Coles and Woolworths Nationally.
Problem: The recall is due to a potential choking hazard
Food safety hazard: The product can crumble into pieces which may pose a potential choking hazard
What to do: Consumers should not eat these products and should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
To view Alerts and Advisories that are no longer current, including alerts issued more than a year ago, visit the previous alerts section of this website.
To find out more, visit the Population Health section of this website.
You can find information about consumer food recalls on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.